WHAT IS A BIA?
A Business Improvement Area (BIA) is a collaboration of business operators in a specified area, who formally agree to contribute funds with the intent of collectively promoting their business community. BIA’s also provide funding to support their pedestrian environments and improvements to the public realms in which they reside. With the further cooperation of property owners, BIA’s may also undertake longer term streetscape improvements and pedestrian corridor enhancements through a separate funding mechanism or local improvement bylaw.
Established through legislation under the Municipal Government Act (MGA), for the Province of Alberta, all Business Improvement Areas are not-for-profit organizations and governed by Boards of Directors. The Board is elected annually and develops a budget to support the programs and service provisions for each BIA. Funds are collected from each business based on their prorated share of occupied space in the area.
There are BIA’s throughout the province and across Canada.. There are twelve BIA’s in Calgary; the 17th Ave Retail & Entertainment District, Marda Loop, the Calgary Downtown Association, Kensington, Inglewood, 4th Street, Victoria Park, Mainstreet Bowness, International Avenue, Chinatown District, HIPville and Montgomery on the Bow.
HISTORY OF THE 17TH AVE BIA
Launched in 1984 and originally incorporated as Uptown 17, the 17th Ave Retail & Entertainment District was the first BIA in Calgary, and the 2nd in the province. Back then, the boundaries extended to MacLeod Trail in the east and 15th Street in the west, however in the early ‘90’s the boundaries were redefined, when a group of property owners approached the BIA about the need for additional revitalization and improvements to the area. Realizing that costs precluded doing the entire area, the Board of Directors petitioned the City of Calgary to have the area redefined, resulting in the boundaries that remain today. They are 17th Avenue from 2nd Street SW to 14th Street SW (with the exception of 2nd Street to 4th Street SW on the south side).
OPERATION & GOVERNANCE OF THE BIA
Overseeing the day to day operation of the BIA, the Executive Director plays a fundamental role in helping the Board achieve its goals, meeting its objectives and implementing the strategies of the Board of Directors. This is achieved through awareness, involvement and knowledge of all activities impacting the livelihood of the business community. It includes the efficient orchestration and management of the BIA operation, financial oversight, administration, facilitation of all events, media & public relations, engagement in the public & governmental forum, fostering and encouraging the ideas of the board of directors and the visions of the business community and the execution of all programs as defined by the annual budget.
Two third party programs provide additional support to the Executive Director. The Calgary Federation of BIA’s Society, operating as CBiZ , is an alignment of eight BIAs who share resources, mentor, engage and jointly advocate for the provision of city services and oversee a graffiti abatement program. And the BIA City Business Plan 2016-2018 brings together all 12 BIA’s and the City, under a concise strategy with objectives in the seven priority areas, all leading to better communications, more support and a greater commitment to BIA’s through dedicated staff & resources.