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BIA extends olive branch to the Village

Bank St banners to get a rethink this spring

LOOKING OUT FOR BANK ST. It appears that relations between the Village initiative and the BIA's Gerry Lepage (pictured) are thawing. Credit: Pat Croteau

Two groups that were once at loggerheads over the branding of Bank St appear to be patching their relationship, after the Bank St Business Improvement Area (Bank St BIA) extended an olive branch to The Village initiative Feb 18.

The two groups sparred publicly during the reconstruction of Bank St in 2008 and 2009. Now, Gerry LePage, director of the Bank St BIA, has offered Glenn Crawford, the chair of the Village committee, a seat at the newly established banner design committee, which will present ideas for street banners to the Bank St BIA.

The blue banners hanging from lampposts along Bank are to be replaced this spring, and Crawford, a professional graphic designer, says he is eager to help figure out what should replace them.

Banners are not only an aesthetic landmark but are used in cities as marketing tools to highlight urban renewal, market designated areas and promote businesses within that area.

It symbolizes the tentative unification of all major stakeholders — local businesses, the city and the queer community — to building a marketable Bank St.

LePage invited two other people who have publicly supported the Village project to help pick new banners: Grant Cobb and Shawn Menard.

Cobb, one of the gay owners of the Second Cup at Bank and Somerset Sts, has donated to the Village project and now has rainbow decals in his storefront.

Menard, president of Centretown Citizens’ Community Association, has spoken publicly about how gay-friendly branding would “enrich” the neighbourhood.

Cobb has confirmed that he will sit on the committee. Denis Schryburt, Vice President of the Centretown Citizens Community Association, has confirmed that he will sit on the committee for Menard.

The project to get more rainbows onto Bank St faced two major setbacks — city plans for the new streetscape omitted anything queer and the BIA issued a press release declaring their ambivalence about the Village.

Since 2008, there has been little help or recognition from the city or the BIA. Instead, the volunteer-run Village committee raised money to buy rainbow flags and decals for interested businesses, including Bridgehead, Second Cup, Venus Envy, After Stonewall, Wicked Wanda’s and the Youth Services Bureau‘s young men’s shelter. That work now appears to be paying dividends.

“I think our community can take pride in everything we have done because certainly, it hasn’t been about just six or seven people on a committee doing the work, it’s the community behind us supporting it, and the businesses and organizations that have agreed to it,” says Crawford.

Capital Xtra contacted LePage to confirm the role of the banner committee and BIA’s decision to identify Crawford as a stakeholder. LePage declined to speak with the paper, and, through his secretary, he said he would never sit for an interview with Capital Xtra again.