Downtown BIA Gets it Right

By Sean Burak
Published November 22, 2007

In an interview published in today's Spectator, The Downtown BIA's Gerry Murphy and Kathy Drewitt are right on in their characterization of why downtown revitalization is moving so slowly. When asked if part of the problem involves "landlords of derelict buildings [who] won't sell, but won't do anything to improve their buildings," they respond:

I think they are. It's probably many of those holding on to properties and sitting on them are the limited numbered companies you can't get a hold of. Whenever they are approached to see if they are interested in selling, they are not, so why are they sitting on them? Why don't they fix them up?

(The properties should face) expropriation. The city needs to take a leadership role in fixing those buildings up.

Or (if that's too strong), encouraging those landlords to refurbish their buildings and not providing them with the current 30 per cent (property tax) discount for being vacant.

I guess you need a task force of economic thinkers who live and work here who can make suggestions to the city on how to get it moving.

Related: City blocking improvements: BIA.

Sean Burak was born in Hamilton but raised elsewhere in Ontario. He returned to his birth town at the turn of the century and has never looked back. Sean is the owner of Downtown Bike Hounds.


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By Jelly (anonymous) | Posted November 22, 2007 at 13:17:47

Hilarious. These are the same folks who organized a petition to tear down the Lister Block- they'll chastise numbered companies for doing exactly what LIUNA has been doing since 1999. I approached them about the Lister Block in 2004 and they didn't want to comment because LIUNA was an influential member of their BIA. They didn't even want to comment.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 22, 2007 at 13:22:43

I have little sympathy for this inept BIA. International Village, immediately to the east on King St is wonderful. Clean buildings, fresh paint, clean sidewalks, new businesses etc.... the city has assisted them, but the BIA has taken the lead role. On the bright side, maybe the Downtown BIA is finally waking up to the fact that while they've been wasting time dreaming up ways to cram more cars into Gore Park the surrounding neighbourhoods and streets have been revitalizing while their own district doesn't. They have 65,000 pedestrians crossing King and Hughson every 24 hours. Create a vibrant district that will entice some of these people to stop and enjoy the downtown. Nowhere else in Hamilton has this level of sidewalk foot traffic. The downtown BIA is doing absolutely nothing with their opportunity. King West, King East (east of the core), James North and James South are all seeing wonderful turnarounds. The city could do more, for sure, but the local business assocation has to look in the mirror first.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 22, 2007 at 22:41:29

it's funny, all of the things you mention have been done by the International Village BIA - they have tourism Hamilton set up a booth all summer, they pressure property owners to get their act together (that BIA is responsible for the Spallacci project moving forward), they regularly market their empty space for lease and buildings for sale on their website. The Mustard Fest is a great event in a great location (unlike the gravel parking lot fiasco). What made that parking lot event even more perplexing is beautiful Gore Park sitting there across the road just begging to be used as more than a bus stop or parking lot. I agree with the BIA's message. The city's priorities seem all out of whack. But the fact is, they need to lead by example. each individual store owner needs to have pride in their building and business. If the BIA doesn't take the lead role, nobody will.

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By Jelly (anonymous) | Posted November 23, 2007 at 15:29:19

I also got a little chuckle out of the BIA's claim that every time they try to do something "out of the box" the city gets in their way. They go on to describe advertising banners on lightpoles as thinking "out of the box".

This BIA hasn't done anything creative as far as I can recall- except for maybe replacing the reindeer in gore park with a merry-go-round, but that was after they finally caved to public pressure.

It would be great to see a more co-operative downtown BIA that can see beyond just the immediate and look for more well-rounded solutions downtown.

I understand that the BIA has to step to the plate for the businesses within it's own boundaries, but how many times do we have to read an article where they either blame the city for being in the way, or the “undesirables” in the area for fucking things up.

Maybe they can use the time they spend complaining and blaming everyone else for their problems instead on looking for more of those “out of the box” solutions.

The most creative ideas usually come out of working with what you’ve got, working around the circumstances, working with the people who are already there. Most of the time, anyone who isn’t in lockstep with the BIA’s line of thinking is usually accused of being anti-business.

Some of us just can’t stand bad ideas.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 23, 2007 at 15:57:54

"usually accused of being anti-business."

Ha! That's the standard form response in this city to anyone with a different idea of how we should be doing things.

Lets see how business as usual is working out - oh, the economic development department tells us business tax growth will be A BIG FAT ZERO for 2008.

Please, please can we keep doing the same old same old? It's working sooo well for us...

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