If you’ve read some of my columns in recent months you’ll have noticed most discuss one specific subject — the business of Bayview. I’ve been on a mission since February 2013 pushing for a livelier, more entertaining, customer-friendly shopping strip.
It hasn’t been easy to get local businesses to think bigger picture but as we enter the second-half of 2014 people like Trae Zammitt, Grant Allardyce, Raymond Gork, Sal and Dom Badali, and so many others (including Councillors Parker and Matlow and their respective staffers) have pulled together like never before to ensure that Bayview finally gets a business improvement area, otherwise known as a BIA.
Two meetings have already been held, this past April and May, to educate landlords and shopowners. The next is scheduled for July 3 between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at St. Cuthbert’s church. At that meeting a secret vote will be held to determine whether the necessary 60-day balloting process, under Chapter 19 (BIAs) of the Toronto Municipal Code, can begin.
The July 3 vote requires the approval of 50 percent plus one vote of those in attendance. If successful, the business community would then enter the process that will see approximately 250 ballots sent out to landlords and shopowners. To enact a by-law creating a new BIA the city requires that at least 75 ballots (based on 250) be returned with 38 (again based on 250) voting in the affirmative, which works out to just 15 percent of the 250 eligible votes.
There’s a fair bit of misinformation circulating among merchants about the ultimate cost of a BIA. While that’s understandable it’s relatively easy to ballpark a cost per member.
In 2014 the 76 active BIAs in Toronto require $26.2 million in levies to fund their operating budgets for the year. With over 35,000 members you’re talking about $750 each.
However, 49 percent of the $26.2 million is eaten up by six large and established BIAs, all in the heart of downtown Toronto, with the exception being the Emery Village BIA along Wilson Ave. If you back out the figures for the six BIAs the average drops to approximately $550 per member.
With an estimated 250 ballots on Bayview the annual levies might total $136,000, possibly running a little higher depending on the board of management’s proposed budget.
The LPOA as part of its $110,000 settlement with SmartCentres has pigeon-holed $25,000 to help a prospective Bayview BIA get off to a strong start. It’s an extremely generous gesture that any BIA, new or old, would gladly welcome. Failure to create a BIA at this stage of the game could affect how the $25,000 is allocated to Bayview businesses. The BIA’s existence ensures everyone benefits.
It goes without saying that all landlords and shopowners supporting the BIA should send in their yes ballots immediately upon receiving them.
Although the BIA will never fly without the cooperation of both landlords and shopowners, Leaside residents should let their favourite stores know they support anything (including the establishment of a BIA) that makes shopping on Bayview a more pleasurable experience. Whether you pick up the phone, drop by in person or send a note by email, you will be making businesses on the street understand just how important Bayview is to our quality of life.
While Bayview is good, we all know it could be better, and that doesn’t happen without the entire community — landlords, shopowners and residents — carrying out an honest and frank discussion moving forward about the things that are working, the things that aren’t and the things that would be nice to have but are currently missing on the street.
At the end of the day I don’t expect a BIA to replace competent business management. Individual shopowners are the people best qualified to make decisions regarding their businesses because no one knows them more inti-mately.
I’m simply suggesting that a BIA in combination with passionate landlords and shopowners who are engaging their customers at every turn can only be viewed as something positive.
On July 3 those of you with a vote have an opportunity to begin a process that with hard work and dedication can lead to a Bayview shopping strip that thrives like never before.
Get out to St. Cuthbert’s. Say yes to a better Bayview!