Downtown Hamilton stars at annual BIA conference

Downtown Hamilton’s business improvement area and the resurgence of the core were stars during the annual Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) conference in Toronto.

A key conference seminar celebrated Hamilton’s achievements and gave BIAs around the province a chance to see how renewal can lead to success, said the director for Renew Hamilton Project.

This year’s conference is themed around building the local economy.

“BIAs are the very best at building what we call a Main Street Economy,” Richard Allen explained. “All communities of all sizes typically have a BIA and their sole focus is on developing and supporting businesses. The notion of economic development and local economy, and using revitalization techniques are very compelling.”

Hosted by the OBIAA and the Toronto Association of BIAS (TABIA), the conference began on April 14 and goes until April 17.

It is being held at the Toronto Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre Hotel. Fifty delegates from BIAs across Ontario learned about the goal and purpose of the Renew Hamilton Project, which is to document, promote and accelerate the restoration and regeneration of downtown Hamilton and the adjacent communities, Allen said.

“Many of the small towns across Ontario are struggling to maintain, build and grow downtown populations, and many downtowns are also struggling both to preserve and restore their heritage buildings,” he explained.

“Those that are finding a way to do it, are finding a renewal premium on those properties.”

The rejuvenation of an area leads to an increase in property values, more foot traffic and unique stores.

It is also important that BIAs are able to differentiate themselves from other areas, added Allen.

“We were able to discuss many things and play two case study videos about the revitalization of the Gore area,” he said. “The videos proved to be great conversation starters and we had a great discussion. In the end, many people felt that Hamilton was already in front of many other communities when it comes to regeneration of its downtown.”

The reaction to Hamilton’s success was positive, with many people commenting on how the downtown revitalization has started to generate economic and social spinoff.

Other BIAs in attendance noted Hamilton has some techniques and policies that could be applicable to other communities, including the grants and incentive programs, said Allen.

There are more than 280 BIAs representing 55,000 businesses in Ontario.

Other seminars discussed the new accessibility standards, improving event management and streetscape renewal.

Awards are being handed out Wednesday in categories including Marketing and Communications, Business Retention, Recruitment and Expansion, Special Events and Promotions, Safe and Healthy Environment, Bricks and Mortar, and the Alex Ling Lifetime Achievement Award.

Originally posted in Your Hamilton Biz.

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