Waiting for a BIA

Bayview merchants had expected to have an answer on whether they would have a Business Improvement Area by our deadline, but Michael Saunders, of the BIA office of the Economic Development Division at City Hall, said that ballots were still being counted and verified.

There has to be a minimum 30 percent voter turned out of eligible business and property owners, with a majority in favour.

Trae Zammit, owner of The Smokin’ Cigar and spokesperson for the BIA steering committee, says, “When we started working on this in January 2014 there were 13 empty stores between Davisville and Soudan (the proposed BIA boundaries). Some have come and gone in the meantime, but the number is about the same today.

“The current rate of business turnover has never been higher and I don’t see it getting better without a BIA.”

Zammit has been on the street for 17 years. The second longest business on the street, for 76 years, is Badali’s Fruit Market.

From his store window, Sal Badali points to the former Tori & Cates cupcake store across the street that closed Dec. 1 and the French restaurant a few doors north that also recently closed.

Four business locations on the east side of Bayview, directly north of Badali’s, are all in transition.

The former Flight Centre next door has been vacant since this past summer. The mattress store, Sleep Country, has moved to a new location on Wicksteed. Bell Jewellers owner Photis Philos will be closing shortly. He says it’s mainly for health reasons, but he mentions high rents and business taxes too.

The space between Sleep Country and Bell Jewellers has been home to a Second Cup coffee shop for the past 20 years. But Hoang Ngo has decided not to renew his franchise agreement when it expires at the end of December.

“It’s mainly personal reasons,” Ngo says, “I’ve got two young kids and, driving down from Markham, and working until 10 p.m. most days, I didn’t get to see them enough.

“But from a business point of view too, it just wasn’t worth it for me to renew the lease. Traffic is definitely down in the past two years. Parking has always been a problem and construction on Bayview – sometimes people change their regular patterns, and then they don’t come back. But now there are more options – such as along Laird – where there’s free parking.”

“I’m going to miss the people,” says Ngo. “I’ve made a lot of friends here.”

One of the managers at Baskin Robbins says the lease there will also not be renewed when it expires next summer.

More about the BIA in the next issue.