3 min

Bring Bank St party back

Why we should offer to bring Pride back to Bank

It’ll be a veritable welcome-home party for everyone after construction finishes on Bank St in 2010. Looking ahead, it will be the first summer that Bank St’s pedestrian traffic won’t have to deal with the noise, the dust and the inconvenience that comes with tearing up the street to replace the pipes.

It’ll also be a coming out party for the area businesses, who are already bracing for the impact of reduced pedestrian traffic and bus route diversions which will cut into their bottom lines for the next two years.

When the backhoes and steamrollers finally drive off, it will be time for another welcome home party. By that, I mean it’ll be time to bring the Pride party back to Bank St.

For a whole host of reasons, the annual post-parade Pride festival has been held on the City Hall lawn since 2005. But the rationale is beginning to change. And two years from now, it will be essential that Pride come home.

So, I’m really hoping that the folks from Pride, The Village project, the BIA and the city sit down together and discuss this. It’s a win-win-win-win scenario, with everyone helping everyone.

Once they’re talking, who knows what they’ll come up with. But here’s what they bring to the table:

Pride has the ability to deliver 30,000 bodies to Bank St in one day.

The Village project has proven it can deliver volunteers, energy and promotion.

The city controls fees and support services for the festival. It can also pay for rainbow markings on street signs (as it did in Chinatown and Little Italy.)

The BIA can provide some infrastructure — and it can agree to help with the flag project, getting rainbows on every street corner for six or eight blocks.

In return, everyone reaps the rewards:

Pride gets to have its festival in the heart of the city. It also gets increased traffic. For instance, attendance at the Bank St party in 2002 was estimated at 55,000, roughly double current numbers. It also gets a festival that is eminently more marketable to out-of-towners and sponsors.

The Village project will see fewer barriers to raising the rainbow flags on Bank St if Pride returns — and they’ll help make Bank St an even more vibrant place to live, for gays and straights alike.

The city gets a low-cost way to help out businesses that have borne the brunt of the burden of street closures.

The BIA gets 30,000 captive customers — or more. It’s a moneymaker for the businesses and a way for the community to say thank you for sticking it out.

Historically, Pride has had some very good reasons for staying away. It’s expensive, organizers say, and Capital Pride is focussing on reducing its debts. That’s commendable, and debt reduction should continue to be a priority for the next two years. Since 2006, they’ve reduced their debt by roughly $100,000. As of last fall, the remaining debt load stood at $130,000. They’re hoping to bring it down again this year.

One of the biggest cheques Pride writes goes to the City of Ottawa for services that the city mandates them to provide — rental fees, police costs, EMS. But when I asked the city about the comparative cost, they coyly suggested it was about equal. In the absence of a detailed plan, I’m skeptical, but it’s certainly good to hear that the differential isn’t as staggering as one might assume.

But after two years of road closures, the Bank St community will have built up some municipal political capital. It is my sincere hope that the city will see the wisdom in waving Pride fees for a few years if it agrees to return to Bank St. Pride parties have huge economic spinoff for the businesses in the area, businesses that could use a leg-up when construction wraps up.

Another barrier for Pride is getting sufficient volunteers. I mean, who wants to spend Pride Sunday working? But as I said, the group that’s best placed to provide people power is The Village network. It managed to draw 150 or more people to the Bank St open house in March, it has got hundreds of Facebook friends, and it was a welcome and vibrant addition to the 2007 parade.

And The Village network (Village People, as advocate Glenn Crawford calls them) has a vested interest in helping out. The Pride party can and should be on the table when Crawford approaches local businesses and the Bank St BIA (Business Improvement Area) in order to get rainbow flags on Bank St.

The Pride party ought to be back on Bank St because Bank St is our home. The party ought to be back on Bank St because it’ll be a way to help our local merchants after construction ends. It makes sense.

And if Pride and the Village can use the party to leverage support for rainbow flags on Bank St, all the better.