Team works toward BIA vote

Queensway seen as up and coming area

Starting a business improvement area along the Queensway has nearly turned into a business in itself.

It’s been in the works for about 20 years — but it may finally be getting its big break.

In January, the Town Crier reported that Ward 5 councillor Peter Milczyn would have one of his staff spend the next three months visiting businesses to sell them on the BIA.

“We bombarded all the individual store and property owners with personal visits,” Milczyn says.

Since May, a steering committee of about 14, co-chaired by Rachael Kelebay of Max’s Market and Michael Borromeo of Metropolitan Kitchen and Bath, and helped by Angela Varone of the city’s BIA office, have been working to help organize business and property owners along the Queensway between Highway 427 and Royal York Road toward a formal vote in the fall.

A majority of the area businesses have to agree before the BIA can be created.

Once formed, all of these businesses in the area pay a fee to a collective improvement fund, some of which is matched by the city.

Kelebay and Borromeo are optimistic that this time around, the BIA will be in business.

“We believe it’s going to happen this time,” says Kelebay. “We are very confident.”

For one thing, the proposed boundaries are based on the interest that has been expressed by potential members, Kelebay says.

“The vast majority of people I have interacted with have been very positive about doing this,” Borromeo says.

The Queensway Residents Association that formed last winter has expressed their support, and optimistic business owners have told Kelebay and Borromeo that the time to form a BIA is now.

“The whole neighbourhood is kind of finally getting to this critical mass where it becomes a community,” says Kelebay.

In the co-chair’s eyes, the stretch is up and coming, which drew her business in the first place.

“We just believed in the neighbourhood,” she says.

The pair says new theatres, condos, restaurants and upgrades by property owners already demonstrate positive change in the area.

In the hope that even skeptics will see how a BIA could give them more bang for their buck, the steering committee has identified three broad potential focuses for the future group.

One is a goal shared by most BIAs — to make the street look prosperous and inviting, Kelebay says.

That would be done through litter cleanup, sidewalk and road repairs, bus shelters, street furniture and landscaped areas.

The committee also wants to promote the area, using measures like an LED sign along the Gardiner Expressway and a print and online business directory.

And they aspire to creating a neighbourhood identity comparable to other well-known BIAs, like Bloor West Village.

“Everybody knows exactly where it is, what it’s like and what you can do there,” Kelebay says.

Kelebay and Borromeo’s neighbourhood might be different, but that won’t make it any less memorable, she says.

“You’ll know when you’re on the Queensway.”

About this article:

By: Caitlin Orr
Posted: Jul 28 2011 11:27 am
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto