BIA proposed to revitalize shops on Wilson Avenue

Councillor James Pasternak, and a handful of local business owners, want to fight competition from the Yorkdale Shopping Centre development by forming a business improvement area (BIA) that would revitalize part of Wilson Avenue.

A BIA is a group of commercial owners and tenants within a district that works with the city to keep the area safe, competitive and appealing to shoppers.

Though Pasternak said the idea was on his mind before Yorkdale — just north of the stretch — announced plans for a $220 million expansion, he said a facelift for the neighbourhood may keep patrons shopping locally.

“The area needs to be more robust and aggressive, to keep shoppers in the area,” he said, of the stretch between Dufferin and Bathurst Streets.

With increased density coming to the area, he said, “We want those people to walk east [to Wilson Avenue], rather than get in their car and go to Yorkdale.”

Many of the local shops have been there for decades, including Marky’s Deli, which has been there almost 30 years. Owner Ezra Karp said it’s still early in the BIA-forming process, but he supports the idea.

“The neighbourhood is changing,” he said.

Marco Ventola, a developer with the nearby Station Condos, attended an initial meeting to discuss the issue.

“I think the councillor really would like to raise the bar on that business district,” he said. “He feels … this could keep [condo residents] supporting the businesses in the district.” Ventola thinks a BIA would provide a sense of leadership the area may not have had before. He said the stretch could benefit from a more “pleasant streetscape,” improved storefronts and some sidewalk repairs, things individual business owners may not have the time for on their own.

Pasternak said the next step is to form an official steering committee, which he hopes to have in place by May.

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