3 min

Blue banners are temporary

Bank St signs designed to be "innocuous," says head of BIA

Banners hung from Bank St lampposts this winter are proving to be a headache, but a volunteer-run gay group is offering to help.

Gerry LePage is the director of the Bank Street Business Improvement Area (BIA), which represents local shops. The BIA mounted the blue banners shortly after road construction finished this fall.

LePage says the BIA is having problems managing the banners. Many lamppost arms are broken or are not uniform in size. As a consequence, some banners fit loosely and tear away easily after snow or windstorms. Already, several of the banners are torn and hanging limply above the sidewalk.

The cost of each banner is $111, so with 90 in total, the BIA needs to find a solution before many more are damaged. They’re in talks with the manufacturers to avoid the need to customize banners for off-sized lampposts, since doing so would be much more expensive. The BIA board wants this problem solved before the street’s grand opening this spring or summer.

Meanwhile, the Village Committee, which has been raising money for more than a year to add pride rainbows to Bank St, has offered to help. They have more than $10,000 saved for banners, flags and other beautification projects. LePage is keeping an open mind.

“I can’t speak on behalf of the board. But I can say they are willing to hear what groups of people have to say,” says LePage.

Village Committee chair Glenn Crawford is optimistic. Throughout the fall, the Village Committee has helped mount rainbow flags and decals on some of the neighbourhood’s businesses, including Venus Envy, Second Cup, Bridgehead, Wicked Wanda’s and the Youth Services Bureau young men’s shelter. Other projects are in the works.

“The Village Committee is the hardest-working group of volunteers I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. We want to contribute and help everyone to succeed,” says Crawford. “I have faith that Bank St, now newly rejuvenated, will have its own unique flavour.”

The banners currently on the street are blue, white and red and tout the area as “better than ever.” But LePage insists the banners were not the board’s way of shutting its doors on a Village-branded street. Banners were designed to be “innocuous,” he says, and will change as time goes on.

LePage says another obstacle the BIA is fighting is a city by-law saying the BIA must have a permit to use banners along the street. In the past, a BIA could simply put up banners as they pleased. Now, banners can be used only for special events and can stay up for just three months.

The city’s by-laws office said, via email, that “the installation of [decorative] banners is normally restricted to: BIAs, National Capital Commission, the city, a major tourism attractor or a public institution or non-profit community service provider, to temporarily promote a special celebration or event. Applicants meeting the criteria may apply to the city and are required to pay a $50 processing fee, a $50 inspection fee, enter into an agreement to indemnify the city of all liability and secure third party liability insurance.”

Robert Giacobbe, owner of Wilde’s, says if gay businesses want the BIA to take the idea of branding the street as The Village more seriously, they should start by branding their own buildings.

“I wish more gay businesses would put up the Pride flags. To me, it is a gay area in my mind. That’s why I put up a Pride flag. I’m working with the Village initiative to help brand this corner for a gay area,” says Giacobbe.

Shawn Menard, president of Centretown Citizens’ Community Association says a designated Village on Bank St would significantly enrich the Centretown community.

“Economically, Bank St has been through a tough time. It would liven up the street. There are already a lot of people in the area from the gay community anyway. We’ve seen other successes in other cities where enhanced communities bring a better livelihood for everyone. The more shops that emerge, the better nightlife we get, the more welcoming the environment will be for all people in the area,” says Menard.

Councillor Diane Holmes says there wasn’t much discussion about the design of the “Better Than Ever” banners at the BIA table. At other meetings, it’s common for several proposals from design firms to be considered.

“Many BIAs have three or four banners, some for each season. In the next few months, there will be talk at BIA meetings about the design of new banners,” says Holmes.