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Centre Street businesses consider banding together ahead of Green Line

The Green Line will eventually run up Centre Street, and with it will come with both construction disruptions and design possibilities.

Businesses along the main street want to be prepared for both, and so plans are now in the works to form a new business improvement area (BIA).

The city-sanctioned organizations allow businesses to pay an extra levy that funds the BIA board. The board then works with the city and advocates for the businesses as a collective. There are already 12 BIAs set up across the city.

Jennifer Black, engagement director with Crescent Heights Community Association said the first of several meetings bringing together Centre Street’s business community was held last week.

She said many businesses are still not all that aware of what Green Line construction will mean for them, or if any property will be expropriated.

“It’s still a little bit vague at this point because they don’t have their contractor in place,” said Black. “So they don’t know how they’re’ going to do it and what the impacts will be, but we do know there’s going to be some impacts.”

The meeting included speakers from the Green Line project and the Main Streets project, as well as a city representative who manages the BIA portfolios.

“We talked about what’s involved in getting a BIA started, and what are the logistics,” said Black.

Black said the hope is that if businesses band together to have a single voice speaking for them, they will have a greater influence on the design of the project.

BIA advocate Gord Hobbins is a former resident of Crescent Heights, and he still operates Gord’s Running Store on Centre Street.

He’s hoping that the Green Line will amount to a large traffic calming measure, because he wants to see more foot traffic around his store.

“We know when they do that Green Line, they have to dismantle part of Centre Street and put it back together,” he said. “Hopefully if the BIA is there and established, they’ll have some influence as to how they put it together, as well as walkability.”

Hobbins said when he lived in Crescent Heights, it almost felt as if there were two communities that were separated by the traffic on Centre Street.

He said he’s hopeful the city will add in a bike lanes when they do the Green Line work. He’d also like to see amenities such as community gardens along the now-busy thoroughfare.

“When vehicles have a reason to slow down, it brings out the pedestrians,” he said.

While he’s hopeful for more foot traffic, he and other business owners realize that the line will be shuttling potential customers past their stores.

“Basically one stop is going to be at 16 Avenue and the next stop is going to be downtown – there’s definitely going to be a big gap,” said Hobbins.

He said some are hoping to see a shuttle service that will bring people from Chinatown into the heart of Crescent Heights.

Black said in order to create the BIA, they have to collect signatures from 25 per cent of the business owners along the stretch between 7 Avenue and 14 Avenue.

The process will take several months. Black said it could be March of 2019 before they submit their application, but only if they get enough support.

“A lot of the support needs to come from businesses,” she said. “Are businesses willing to canvass each other, to talk to one another and talk about why they support this idea?”