Three popular Calgary Business Improvement Area boundaries (BIAs) are set to expand, with one of them to more than double in size.
The Marda Loop, Crescent Heights and 17 Avenue SW BIAs all went up for expansion approval at the Oct. 3 public hearing meeting of Calgary city council.
The degree to which each expands varies, with only minor adjustments to 17 Ave, a roughly 33 per cent growth of Marda Loop and Crescent Heights Village BIA set to more than double. All three were eventually approved.
The city admin report touted the benefits of BIAs, saying they help contribute to the vibrancy and quality of life in an area with programming. They said they also provide a promotional service to businesses in a respective zone, and they provide advocacy for things like public realm improvements.
Camie Leard, executive director of the Crescent Heights Village BIA said their relatively new BIA brought businesses together to accomplish things they couldn’t do on their own. They were established in 2019.
“We’ve helped businesses navigate the pandemic, get grants, develop security, streetscape marketing events, community initiatives, and advocated for the businesses of the area with the city and province in matters of transportation, parking, COVID relief, and of course the green line LRT project,” she said.
Right now, Leard said they are about 120 businesses strong. Expanding the boundaries to include a portion of 16 Avenue roughly 4 Street NE to 4 Street NW, and Edmonton Trail from 16 Avenue NE to 6 Avenue would bring more people together to do more, she said.
“We’re a little BIA up to big things and we’d like to be a bigger BIA up to huge things,” Leard said.
“The proposed expansion would grow our financial resources while alleviating some of the burden on the businesses in our existing footprint.”
Businesses within a BIA pay a certain portion of property tax based on the assessed value of a business, multiplied by the BIA tax rate in that area.
Not seeing the value: Biz owner
Sarah Kent, an owner of small businesses on both 17 Avenue SW and in the proposed Crescent Heights expansion area along Edmonton Trail, said she hasn’t seen the benefits of what businesses are paying into the BIA funds.
For her business on 17 Avenue, she said she hadn’t seen anyone in two years to explain what the BIA was or how it worked. Kent just wanted to be at the city meeting for her concerns to be heard.
“I have to say that I never heard of BIA until very recently. I did not even know that I was paying for it to be honest,” Kent said.
“I have not seen any improvement in my business or the businesses around me through the BIA.”
Kent also had concerns about the impact on her business on Edmonton Trail. She wasn’t convinced that belonging – and paying – for a BIA would help such a small stretch for businesses. She said she’s heard the same concern from other business owners in the area.
“From the information that I have gathered, nobody can really afford to be paying extra tax for something they don't know how it will benefit them or if it will benefit them,” she said.
An expansion in the Marda Loop area will accommodate roughly eight new businesses that have popped up in the area, according to BIA executive director Bob van Wegen. He said they intend to smooth out the boundaries to manage things like banners and street furniture to allow for future development.
He expects up to 20 businesses will be in the area soon.
“We now look forward to these businesses becoming official members so that they can fully participate in the BIA and this decision-making process,” van Wegen said.
Coun. Terry Wong said that he and Coun. Courtney Walcott have nearly two-thirds of the BIAs in their wards.
“Dedicated businesses together, residents together, community associations are the lifeblood to keeping a community safe, keeping communities a great destination and giving communities a good experience and then doing that,” he said.
“It is upon us to ensure that the BIAs and community associations are very strong and doing what they need to do.”
The items were approved unanimously.