City of North Vancouver council voted unanimously Monday (July 18) to put up $30,000 for area entrepreneurs to establish a business improvement association serving the commercial zone from Fourth Street up to Centennial Theatre.
Once a BIA is established, council adds an extra levy onto the tax bills of commercial property owners, which the BIA’s elected board members choose how to invest in marketing, events and beautification projects for the benefit of the business community as a whole.
Lonsdale Business Improvement Area Society director and Chop & Chew Restaurant owner Shayan Keshvadi told council he pictures a pedestrian-oriented “European style” makeover for the area with more patios and revitalization and reuse of alleys and lanes.
“Let's take the time to actually envision what Central Lonsdale to Upper Lonsdale would be. A great vision of that is Lower Lonsdale. Creating a grand boulevard from 13th to 20th streets on Lonsdale, with luscious trees, walking distances for pedestrians,” he said. “Creating a cohesive environment where people don’t need to veer too far away.”
With the Harry Jerome rec centre and surrounding land redevelopment underway, it’s the right time, Keshvadi noted.
“We do have a really good momentum and I think it's the time to pounce on this opportunity,” he said.
Most often, BIAs are formed by a reverse-petition, whereupon the commercial property owners of the area are informed of the process and given an opportunity to speak against it. If 50-per-cent-plus-one of the property owners representing more than 50 per cent of the assessed value of the properties register their opposition, the proposal will be killed.
Central Lonsdale has about 500 businesses that could become part of a BIA, Keshvadi noted. The society’s board members have already begun going door-to-door in the area, letting business owners know what they have in mind.
Getting the Lower Lonsdale BIA established was highly controversial at the time and took several attempts before it was approved in 2016. When it came up for renewal in December 2021, an enthusiastic council gave their BIA a fresh eight-year mandate.
When it came to a proposal for a new BIA in Central Lonsdale, council had no qualms about putting up some seed money, which will be spent on things like a website, outreach to local business owners and administrative costs.
Coun. Holly Back said she would have loved to have had a BIA representing her interests when she was running a salon on 14th Street at Lonsdale.
“Lower Lonsdale is so active now and I can only imagine bringing that up Lonsdale. Lonsdale is just going to be one dynamic street,” she said.
Coun. Don Bell, previously a big critic of the process that established the LoLo BIA, said he’s become a full convert.
“I don't want to see the loss of the mom-and-pop shops, and I say that as a former owner of a small business,” he said. “There is an adage that says ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’ I think that the unity of the businesses makes great sense, and that's been proven now in Lower Lonsdale.”
Mayor Linda Buchanan said a new BIA is entirely in keeping with her vision for the area.
“I said in my inaugural address that [Lonsdale] would be the greatest high street in Canada. We don't set low bars here. We set high bars for us to achieve,” she said. “We're 100 per cent behind you – and we want it to be successful because if you're successful, we're successful and our residents in our city are successful. We super thrilled to see you here tonight.”
If all goes smoothly, Keshvadi said he’d like to see the BIA up and running by 2023 or 2024.