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Lower Lonsdale Business Improvement Area sought
There are renewed efforts to establish the North Shore’s first Business Improvement Area (BIA) in Lower Lonsdale — where stakeholders collectively fund community enhancement projects by paying a special tax.
During a previous campaign, in 2010, by the Lower Lonsdale Business Association (LLBA), 49 per cent of Lower Lonsdale property owners or tenants opposed the establishment of a BIA. If one-third of businesses vote against the proposal the BIA application process is terminated.
From that experience, the LLBA learned most of the BIA opposition came from light industrial businesses in a concentrated area north of East Esplanade Avenue at St. Georges Avenue.
That area will likely not be included in a geographical boundary for this latest Lower Lonsdale BIA bid, which started in 2012. The LLBA was given $120,000 in grant money from the City of North Vancouver — in two installments — for administrative support to assist the volunteer-run organization with their campaign.
The timing is right, LLBA executive director Stephanie Clarke told The Outlook. LLBA board members are currently working with renowned destination marketing expert Roger Brooks who has been tasked by the City of North Vancouver to help reinvent the Lower Lonsdale waterfront.
“A new BIA would have the added benefit of [Brooks’] report recommendations for the rebranding of Lower Lonsdale and development strategy for the waterfront area,” said Clarke.
There are approximately 69 BIAs in B.C. — including 22 in Vancouver — each with its own distinct branding. These nonprofits are run by an elected mix of business people in the designated area who advocate on behalf of the entire BIA member base for area improvements ranging from beautification projects to bylaw changes.
“Commercial districts without a BIA are like a shopping mall without any management or identity,” said Clarke.
Once the required level of support from local businesses for a BIA is achieved, a city bylaw is created. Annual BIA budgets are funded through a special commercial property tax, which is collected by the city. Clarke said that fee, on average, is comparable to the cost of a small advertisement in a local newspaper.
Menchie’s franchise owner Terry Shein is on board with the BIA proposal. He said he chose East Second Street and Lonsdale Avenue to set up his frozen yogurt shop for a variety of reasons.
“It has such great potential for a not just great, but an over-the-top retail mix,” explained Shein. “And I really like the Lower Lonsdale feel — the community looked like they were mobile on their feet. And there’s great density here.”
Shein is inspired by the work being accomplished by other BIAs and says Lower Lonsdale can stand to benefit from such an organization.
“The neighbourhoods that have them, I think they do very, very well,” he said. “I think where you can laser beam-accurate get your message across to the civic government is through a business improvement association that speaks with one voice.”
The LLBA will ask council in December to undertake a voting process among Lower Lonsdale commercial property owners for the BIA proposal.