By Ben Harrison
A local consultant wants to create a new business improvement district in the North End.
“The idea is to encourage people to come into the north end, walk around and appreciate the area,” says Bernard Smith, who is working with the Agricola/Gottingen Business Initiative. “There’s a certain amount of strength in the area. We want to highlight the potential of what the North End has to offer.”
The district would include merchants on Gottingen and Agricola Streets, as well as those who are part of the Hydrostone Market.
“We hope to have a sort of walking tour of the community,” says Smith. “We would have a directory card that would highlight the antique shops and art exhibitions and give some background on the area.”
Smith hopes to distribute the cards at hotels and tourist spots.
North end merchants previously attempted to apply for a business improvement district in 2005.
But it was difficult to maintain momentum, says Fred Connors, one of the people behind the original proposal and owner of FRED Salon Cafe and Gallery.
“There was an overwhelming negative vote for our initial attempt for a (district). I think there was a lot of miscommunication and concern about the amount of levy and more taxation,” says Connors.
The proposal included a small levy paid by all the commercial properties, explains Connors. The levy would pay for the full-time salary of a person whose job is to address the concerns of the neighbourhood and promote the North End as a business district.
“We were conducting a lot of community outreach to be able to relate to all the business owners in this community the importance of having an organized body, under the (business improvement district), to deal with all of the concerns that business owners in this community have,” says Connors.
Smith’s drive for a new district should engage local businesses in establishing a dialogue about community growth, argues Connor.
“I hope Bernie, and I’m sure he will because he’s tenacious, will be able to continue that dialogue further and better educate people, not just business owners but commercial property owners as well, around why business improvement districts work. We need to talk about why they make sense and contribute to the growth of healthy communities.”
A business improvement district is an area with higher property taxes funnelled directly into neighbourhood promotion.