Hastings Crossing BIA Executive Director’s report 2014 AGM
As we approach our 2014 AGM I’m proud to say that we have passed the midpoint of our first five-year mandate to represent and work on behalf of the several hundred businesses, social enterprises, non-profits, charities and property owners in our diverse catchment area. In that time we have developed and tested a handful of program streams addressing and exploring such things as public safety and cleanliness of public spaces, activating parks with cultural events, bringing our member together through networking events, guest speakers, lunch and learns and other activities, supporting and commissioning public art in our catchment area, increasing streetscape greenery, leveraging major events through innovative marketing and supporting other community partners who are sharing the work with us in activating public spaces, caring for public spaces or caring for their own properties and ventures.
In the past two years a portion of programming funds had been deferred to create a more substantial impact in regards to the public safety and cleanliness piece and in the events and cultural programming piece through 2013-14. I have also attached our July 2014 Newsletter (see july 2014 newsletter_Final) which goes into more detail about these various program streams. In regards to public spaces and the streetscape we have contracted Mission Possible, a local award winning social enterprise, that in the past two years has done the following:
Picked up over 10,000 needles and other hazardous street debris
Reported over 1,000 illegal dumpings on streets and in alleys
Over 25 cases of vandalism called in to COV
65 situations in public spaces or businesses de-escalated
Over 100 referrals to services
All of this has helped to make our streets safer, yet significant challenges remain. This year street disorder and street debris, while improving in some areas, has drastically worsened in others. Most notably in stretches Hastings where there are a string of newly vacant and persistently storefronts. We have been directly engaging the City of Vancouver and its various departments, Street Sanitation, Engineering, Parks and others, to see how we might better coordinate cleaning schedules between the City, the BIA, and other non-profit service providers in the area. Disappointingly we were anticipating a grant between $20,000 to $30,000 from a local Foundation to supplement our funding for this as we will have to reduce the hours of the patrol now that we no longer have built-up deferred funds to allocate. We are actively looking for other funding solutions to keep this program stream operating at the scale and consistency that we feel is necessary, which this past year has demonstrated. If our renewal of the BIA is successful in 2016 we aim to increase the budget to have more impact in the street cleanliness and public safety programming areas.
TOOL SHARE LIBRARY AND PUBLIC SPACES STEWARDSHIP
We have also launched our Tool Share Library and a public spaces stewardship committee with the Pigeon Park Street Market to focus on improved stewardship of parks and sidewalks. Throughout this spring and summer we have benefitted from the Street Market cleaning team who have come through and done badly needed sweeps of Victory Square Park and Pigeon Park, before or after events or just when it needs some attention. Through a City of Vancouver Grant we have built up a collection of outdoor cleaning tools that we hope our members will take full advantage of in the fall and winter as leaf blowing, power washing and other things will be required in our neighhourhood as it transitions through the seasons.
LEVERAGING LOCAL ASSETS
Leveraging the presence of important assets like our local post secondary institutions has been something we have been eager to explore, and we’ll touch on how we are doing that with SFU in particular a bit later. After putting a call out for submissions to the local post secondary institutions in our catchment area (Vancouver Film School, Vancouver Community College, and SFU) we received some exciting student submissions for public art. The winner in the end was FOUND Spaces Collective, a partnership between two SFU Fine Arts students to create a text-based sidewalk mural collection that captures various poems, prose or quotes from people who live and work in the DTES. Over 12 sites have been activated with text in a collection of truly thought provoking, tender and heartening quotes about people and places and the changes they experience.
We will be exploring more options for public art in the new-year and may once again challenge students in our local post secondary institutions to submit their concepts. We’re pleased with this first attempt and feel there is much potential here.
VICTORY SQUARE AS A KEY PUBLIC PROGRAMMING SPACE
Further to a concentrated push on street safety and cleanliness and putting art in public spaces we have worked hard to animate Victory Square Park and (re)-establish this as a key programming space in the downtown core. In the past year several large events and several smaller events have chosen Victory Square as their location, something we feel indicates confidence in the space itself but is also indicative of the increasingly tangible energy in the air that comes from so many new businesses, students and residents working, studying and living adjacent to this important public space.
We have either organized these ourselves, like Lunch Meet or the Victory Square Flower Festival or we have been a sponsor of them, like the CITR Block Party, Central City Foundation’s Fair in the Square or Indian Summer in the Park. We’re very excited to see all the new programming and activations that continue to take place here.
There are other nearby venues in our catchment area whose presence we have also leveraged, most notably SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. Over the past two years we have experimented with various ways to capitalize on the presence of major events coming through the venue, like the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Vancouver Queer Film Festival or Bah Hambug. Many of you have agreed to be our marketing guinea pigs throughout this process and for that we are very thankful. Specifically regarding the various passport programs we have launched, the most successful of them being the Vancouver Queer Film Festival passport, which extended discounts to local restaurants, cafes and pubs to those who attended the festival.
If I can sum up what I feel this past year has been about we have put significant effort into marketing and events while also really rolling out our first attempt at a comprehensive safety, crime prevention and cleanliness program. Both of these focus areas have been dependent on building partnerships with a range of other associations, services providers and institutions in our catchment area. Much of this past year was about proving out concepts while leveraging what other people are already doing well around us; events in public spaces, and in indoor venues, most especially.
The BIA has also pushed hard in the advocacy department this past year, having chaired the BIA Partnership’s Local Economic Development Committee. This committee has pressed the City to acknowledge various barriers that small businesses and property owners face such as unreasonable permit delays, or permit triggers, inconsistency with civic departments, problems with the tax code that impede affordability and competitiveness for small businesses, street cleanliness and street disorder, and other things that you have brought to us as issues. Because of this advocacy the City has undertaken surveys and round tables with the assistance of the Vancouver Economic Commission, of which you were invited to participate in. We hope you took advantage of this opportunity for you to be directly involved in informing policies that affect you and your business. We will continue to press the City on these issues on your behalf as we understand how busy you are, but once in a while we truly need to hear your own individual voices regarding these types of concerns. There are a few meeting times with the Vancouver Economic Commission still available and they are on:
- Sunday, October 5th: 2pm – 5pm
- Thursday, October 9th: 4pm – 8pm
- Friday, October 10th: 730 am – 1030 am
- Wednesday, October 15th: 8am – 11am
We sincerely hope that small businesses with 10 or fewer employees will take advantage of this opportunity to craft better policy in your interest. Taxes, permits, training and skill development for staff and business owners, whatever your ideas VEC wants to hear them.
The BIA has also worked to help our members be proactive in regards to municipal bylaw changes regarding organic food scraps in commercial buildings. This past year we received a grant from Metro Vancouver to participate in the Zero Waste Strategy. Thank you to those businesses who participated, Metro Learned much about the challenges we will all face in adopting the new food scraps diversion bylaws this coming year. We will continue to engage Metro and the City and are here for you if you have any questions, concerns or issues regarding this change in service.
LIVING HISTORY SERIES (Signature BIA Event)
This past year we have been working on the launch of what we envision as our signature yearly event., unlike many BIAs this event will be focused on activating spaces within businesses, as opposed to street closures. The event is called the Living History Series, and it is a multimedia celebration of the history of our area through the examination of a person, place or event of historical significance. Over the past year we have worked with a film production company to unearth the fascinating history of a long gone notoriously famous venue, the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret, a venue that went through dramatic changes from the 1950s to early 1980s. It started as a supper club and ended as a punk rock dive, and in that time countless stories and lore were generated, including Jimi Hendrix’s connection to the Buddha along with Tommy Chong and other Vancouver artists who grew to great acclaim. With original never before seen performances by Joe Keithly of DOA and Neil Osborn of 54-40 and with dozens of interviews with people who performed, worked at or frequented the Smilin’ Buddha we uncover the story of one of Vancouver’s most legendary lost venues. Now comes the truly innovative part of this. We have raised several thousand dollars in sponsorship to hire the production team who have done outstanding work thus far but we still need $5000 more to finish this project and provide some seed funding for the next Living History topic. In so doing we are turning to crowdfunding to both raise awareness of the project but also to reward our contributors with local swag that will market our member businesses.
This is our first foray into utilizing crowdfunding not only as a means to complete a project but to also mobilize marketing for our members, gift certificates, experiences, products etc. When the documentary is complete we will be screening it in several small venues throughout the neighbourhood, and will be working with businesses to activate their spaces if they wish to host a screening of their own. We are truly excited about this project as it is very close to completion. The Museum of Vancouver has also expressed interest in screening the documentary and assisting us with getting word out about the crowdfunding campaign. The combination of built in marketing for our members through the contribution system of the crowdfunding platform, the platform as a means to bring in revenue to complete the project, and the potential to activate multiple locations in our BIA catchment area make this a very innovative and well integrated signature event.
INTEREST IN AND RECOGNITION OF OUR WORK INTERNATIONALLY
As Canada’s first social innovation driven BIA the way we have gone about developing our identity and our programming has caught the attention of planners, municipal leaders and many other BIAs, BIDs, NIDs etc. in both Canada and the United States. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking on panels and presenting at conferences in both the U.S. and Canada over the past year including the International Downtown Association’s Yearly Congress in New York, the Urban Land Institute’s Cascadia Regional Conference in Portland this summer, the joint BIABC/IDA conference held in Victoria earlier this summer. Numerous academic researchers have also visited us from Ireland, the UK, Japan, from other parts of Canada and the United States as we attempt to carve out an innovative new space as a BIA.
In the year ahead we are in the midst of a member engagement strategy that we hope will result in even more involvement in and interest and awareness from our members regarding the work the BIA is engaged it. I’m happy to say that we have a number of well functioning committees and a board that continues to show commitment to good governance, creativity and long-term thinking. I want to acknowledge Kira Gerwing, Seann Dory, Am Johal and Matt Friesen who have been with the BIA since its inception and who have contributed to strengthening both the board and staff in their execution of duties. All four will no longer be continuing on with the BIA and all four have contributed to committees and initiatives of the BIA at important times and have also worked to establish relationships within the community that have been essential to our programming. I would also like to thank Anthony Taylor of SME Strategies who has served for the past two years and was exceptionally engaged over the course of this summer in regards to reaching out to our membership and potential members.
I would also like to thank Heather O’Hara who has served as the BIAs first Chair and who has been a mentor to me in this position. Heather has been like a rock, consistent, always thinking creatively and thoughtfully about the work of the BIA and always taking time to really provide guidance to me as an Executive Director. Something she has much experience herself with. Further to this our Treasurer Jennifer Johnstone has also provided me with invaluable guidance regarding the financial governance of the BIA, which we have steadily improved in the past two years and past year in particular. Our bookkeeping and accounting systems have come a long way as we have experienced three successful audits and three successful years of program creation and delivery. We have built the foundation of a well functioning Business Improvement Association, put in place internal systems and developed a clearly identifiable brand and voice in this community and this city. We are well positioned as we approach our renewal period in 2016. We hope you will work with us as that time approaches. We feel this BIA is only scratching the surface of what is possible but even this I am proud of and encouraged by.
Hastings Crossing BIA