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Bank St BIA conducts yet another Village study

Bike lane canvass includes gay question

Bank St Business Improvement Area director Jerry LePage. Credit: Pat Croteau

The City’s proposed segregated bike lane on Laurier Ave has sparked the Bank Street Business Improvement Area (BIA) to conduct a survey of business owners’ opinions on both bike lanes and the prospect of recognizing the Village.

Last month, the City presented a draft of a proposed segregated bike lane project on Laurier Ave.

East and westbound bike lanes would be protected from traffic with curbs, delineations or other street treatments to be installed along 1.3 kilometres of Laurier Street from Bronson to Elgin Street.

The project encouraged many cycling groups. Gerry LePage, Bank St BIA executive director, called it “absurd.”

The BIA hired market research firm Shore-Tanner & Associates. For the last month, director Barry Nabatian has been asking Bank St business owners their opinions about a proposed segregated bike lane on Laurier Ave.

The other element of Nabatian’s research is asking business owners their confidential opinions of the Village on Bank St.

“Our only concern is impact on business,” says Nabatian, adding the report will be released mid-January 2011.

Nabatian says he is not asking business owners if they are for or against either the bike lane or the Village. He is only interested in how they feel the two elements will affect their business.  The two questions he wants answers to are:

If there is a segregated bicycle lane on Laurier, will it improve your business? Or will it have no impact? If it will negatively impact your business, why? If it will positively impact, your business, why?

As for a designated gay district from Nepean to James St: If there is a Village designation, will that be good for your business? Bad for your business? Why would it be good? Why would it be bad?

Nabatian says BIA needs the research so it can develop a position on both ideas.

In 2002, the Bank St BIA responded to a request made by the Ottawa Pride Committee and surveyed its members between Somerset and Gladstone to see if they wanted the area to be called the Rainbow District. At the time, an overwhelming 88 percent of members responded in favour and the BIA passed a motion supporting the name.

“That motion passes on to subsequent boards to say this is a cohesive, legitimate group or members of the community that wish to instil a particular flavour, environment and aesthetic appeal to a very specific geographic area,” LePage told an Xtra reporter in a 2006.

The BIA’s recent survey comes at a time when the Village was pushing for queer-identified street signs in November.

Ian Capstick says the BIA survey is good news and he is confident the business community will reflect what people have wanted for years: a visibly gay district on Bank St.

“We’re pretty confident. We have a good relationship with the businesses. We know what people already said before, which is they wanted a more visible queer-oriented space. I don’t know what the final report is going to say, but I asked Gerry to put me on the list to see the report next month. I think it will reflect the spirit of the community. And whatever spirit that is, we’d like to see,” says Capstick.

Kevin Martin, owner of Stroked Ego, says he believes in ground-up marketing.

“The community will decide what it wants to do,” says Martin.

Shelley Taylor, owner of Venus Envy, says she has not been approached to take part in the survey yet.

“The business owners in this area are directly affected in terms of the BIA and the queer designation. I think it’s good any time you get input from the people directly affected by an action,” says Taylor.

Sandra Finn, owner of Vitality Cookware, says the amount of disposable income the gay community has should not be overlooked.

“All we can do is place flags and put stickers in the window and hope they spend more time shopping in
the area,” says Finn.

Harriet Walker, manager of Bank and Gilmour Bridgehead, says the neighbourhood is diverse and “very gay-friendly”.

“The neighbourhood has a lot of different people in it,” says Walker.

Gerry LePage and Councillor Diane Holmes could not be reached for comment.

Nabatian says he will submit his final report to the BIA’s board the first or second week of January. For more information, call the Bank Street BIA at 613-232-6255.