Tag Archives: BIA

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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Filling vacant storefronts tops new strategic plan for Barton Village BIA

Vacant property will be open for viewing as the Barton Village BIA

Barton Village BIA gateways.

Barton Village BIA gateways.

looks for ways to fill empty storefronts.

Vacant businesses and access to the area are high on the BIA’s list of things to do in a new strategic plan adopted last November.

A city officials says the approach worked well when it was tried on Ottawa Street.

“The Ottawa Street BIA did this around 15 years ago because it had a similar problem and you can now see the results,” said Michael Marini, marketing co-ordinator of the City of Hamilton’s Economic Development Department. “It was one of the efforts to bring people back to the street and the vacancy rate has dramatically reduced on Ottawa Street.”

The Barton Village BIA discussed marketing the area at a meeting Marini attended last month and the idea of a real estate viewing was brought up.

“You have to start marketing the properties because they are available properties,” he explained.

The new strategic plan also looks at accessibility to visitors, investment in the village, beautification of the streets and the enforcement of city bylaws, explained executive director Shelly Wonch. The BIA is also investigating a farmer’s market.

“We’re directly working with the Economic Development department at City Hall and they have business development consultants that we’re working with us regarding our vacancies,” Wonch said. She said an open house of properties will take place in the spring or early summer.

The BIA also wants to make Barton Village easier to visit.

“We want to be one of the most accessible districts in Hamilton,” said Wonch. “The BIA and community partners are currently working on increasing the accessibility as we renew our neighbourhood.”

This isn’t just washrooms in restaurants, but also accessibility on the streets and safety of street corners.

Plans are moving along quickly but major changes and developments will take place over the next three to five years.

“Barton Village is an affordable area and it’s growing and renewing itself,” said Wonch. “If businesses would like to invest in an area that is changing and growing, they should come and see us; there’s a lot of opportunities here for all businesses, not just retail.”

The 25-year-old BIA takes in the largest area in the city. Recent initiatives include gateway signs in the east and west end of the village.

The signs were designed by City of Hamilton architect David Zimmer with direction from the BIA and light up at night.

“It’s a nice addition to the village that welcomes people into the area,” said Wonch.

The BIA has been invited to sit on the Community Advisory Committee of the Pan Am Committee and will become an active participant in the 2015 Pan Am Games.

Originally posted in Your Hamilton Biz.

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