Candidates united in support of Bayview BIA

[attach]7756[/attach]To BIA or not to BIA. That is the question.

Except, as for how it might impact the race for the Ward 26 council seat in the Oct. 27 municipal election it really isn’t much of a question at all. At least not yet. Both current councillor John Parker and David Sparrow, the only challenger to have filed nomination papers to date, say they are entirely in favour of business improvement areas.

BIAs are partnerships between property owners, their business tenants and the city. They form small areas wherein they work together on initiatives such as enhancing safety, upgrading public amenities, and advertising and promoting their strip of stores.

A second meeting to explore creation of a Bayview Avenue BIA has been scheduled for May 21 at Leaside Library after an exploratory meeting on April 14 generated what Parker described as “a strong degree of enthusiasm” from the local business community.

Parker and Ward 22 councillor Josh Matlow are collaborating on the proposal, which was presented to a group of merchants and landlords by Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas director John Kiru. According to Parker, 21 businesses signed up for more information at the initial meeting, also held at Leaside Library.

“On Bayview, people are surprised we don’t have one already,” Parker said. “I think it would take a good area and make it better, so that’s why I’m so enthusiastic about one being there.”

Sparrow says he has talked to business owners on Bayview and that for the most part they are gungho about the possibility of being a part of a new BIA.

“Some of them are disappointed that past BIAs didn’t work out and aren’t so hopeful (this time around), but others think we need to try it again,” he said. “It’s an interesting challenge and it’s worth having because small businesses really form the foundation of a community.”

While calling the idea “a natural” for Bayview Avenue, Parker expressed doubt other areas in his Don Valley West ward have “the elements that would support one.”

He said the businesses in Thorncliffe Park, Flemingdon Park and Wynford-Concorde are mostly in shopping centres, likening them to “in-house BIAs,” and that Leaside is the only area in the ward where BIAs might be formed.

“In the case of Leaside, it’s Bayview, it’s Eglinton and it’s Laird,” he said, adding the shops on Laird are also mostly in shopping centres. “Eglinton has a cluster of independent businesses and they might want to think in terms of coordinating their efforts, but I’m not sure they have the critical mass that successful BIAs look for.”

Sparrow, on the other hand, said businesses in shopping centres could push for their own BIAs anyway.

“Even if they’re all working with the same landlord, if you have a collective voice that helps that landlord to better define their area so people are more attracted to it, I think that can only benefit a mall-type situation,” he said.

Sparrow, who is partly campaigning on an anti-big box store stance, said he is “all about collective voices” and he believes BIAs are “a great way to attract consumers to an area.”

[align=right]— With files from Eric Emin Wood