Early this past summer, Henry Byres, coordinator of the Bayview-Leaside BIA, wrote in Leaside Life of his “unease” at the prospect of being able to provide an update to our readers, given we were in the third wave of Covid. Eight months later, and with the spectre of Omicron looming large, the prospect of specifying a clear path forward remains a challenge. Despite this, Henry is optimistic about business prospects in 2022.
As a resident, I am grateful for the work of the BIA to enhance and promote the business area on Bayview as a safe, vibrant place to do business, and as a focal point for community initiatives. There are currently 83 business improvement areas (BIAs) working in partnership with the City of Toronto. BIAs are funded by a property tax levy paid by all commercial property owners within the defined boundary for each BIA. Each member’s levy is determined by the individual’s share of the area’s total property assessment.
New residents and businesses at “The Stack” will help drive growth
The expectation for 2022 is that we will see a return to a full slate of Bayview-Leaside BIA events, including Sidewalk Sensation in June, Apple Fest in October, and Holiday Season in November-December. The bottom line for the coming year – Henry “anticipates a strong year for local business.” In addition to the full slate of events, the plan for 2022 includes:
• Continuing to grow the BIA’s social media presence by building on its strengths as a thriving main street, populated by independent retail, service and food industry businesses.
• Continuing the BIA’s enhanced planting and display program from 2021, including spring, summer and fall plantings, and winter displays.
• Continuing with the BIA’s enhanced program of street and parkette maintenance.
• Welcoming the new commercial and residential tenants that will occupy the Brown Group’s new mixed-use development at 1674-84 Bayview Avenue, renamed “The Stack” (provides a new customer base for local business and may offer more choice for local businesses as new commercial space becomes available).
• Assisting member business and property owners to access support grants offered by the City.
This last point resonates with me most because there is funding to be had and the BIA is thankfully available to assist its members with their grant applications. Encouragingly, for Leaside business and property owners not located within the BIA, City Council announced plans this October to direct federal Covid relief funds into two separate programs: the Commercial Rehabilitation Grant Program (up to $20,000 for 50% of costs of building improvements) and the Commercial and Industrial Property Grant Program (up to $5,000 for 50% of costs related to site improvements for CafeTO) and make them both available to non-BIA applicants, too.
The City has also expanded its existing Commercial Façade Improvement Program (from $2,500 up to $12,500 in matching funds to improve commercial or industrial buildings). So, if you as a business or property owner are planning to invest in building improvements (BIA or no BIA), it can’t hurt to see if your project qualifies for financial assistance from one of these City programs to assist you in 2022. With any luck, we may even be able to cajole the BIA to run a workshop for non-BIA businesses interested in getting “tips and tricks” as they pertain to navigating the grant application process.
Would businesses on Laird benefit from becoming a BIA?
In Toronto, BIAs are recognized as official service agencies which play a role in local governance because they are typically among the first points of contact for city planners and other staff. As a result, they are regularly included in policy development and ongoing engagement once decisions have been made. Several of our organized groups with strong links to the City (e.g., LRA, Leaside Gardens, LBPA) serve a similar role, and their work improves our ability to effectively respond to changes affecting our community more rapidly.
In my opinion, a strong Bayview-Leaside BIA provides the local leadership and governance required to take advantage of new business opportunities that will emerge as the number of Leaside residents and businesses grows on Bayview. Perhaps the idea of a complementary BIA focusing on supporting businesses on Laird is a discussion worth having.
Happy New Year, Leaside. Like Henry and the Bayview Leaside BIA, let’s be optimistic and plan to shoot for the stars in 2022!
Do you feel a BIA model might benefit the local Leaside businesses on Laird or across Eglinton? Do you know a local business that can take advantage of the City’s available funding programs to make business improvements? Have you considered volunteering your time and expertise with the BIA or any of Leaside’s other amazing organizations? Let us know at .