First the good news:Having finally moved into an office of its own last month, the Davie Village Business Improvement Association (BIA) is now setting its sights on potentially expanding the Village.
In a move to continue the beautification and promotion of the Davie Village as an A-list gay tourism destination and the throbbing heart of Vancouver’s gay community, the BIA is hoping to expand its borders along Davie St, either west to Denman or east to Granville.
Now the bad news: the potential expansion comes on the heels of a “tracking error” that left the BIA $53,000 in unexpected debt and needing to find more money fast.
The debt stems from the tree lights the BIA strung through the Village’s branches late last year. The $53,000 bill took the directors by surprise due to a combination of comings and goings on the board, and the wobbly nature of running a BIA without any office space. (Formerly of no fixed address, the BIA has until now conducted business out of cardboard boxes, in members’ businesses and spare nooks and crannies.)
BIA president Randy Atkinson refers to the missed tree light invoice as a “tracking error” and downplays its significance.
“The bottom line is, we needed to amend the budget to include the tree lighting expenses the membership wanted in the past, and to include sufficient funds to secure the resources needed to prevent such tracking errors from occurring again,” he says.
With a full-time coordinator and office space, Atkinson is confident tracking errors won’t happen again.
He says the extra money generated by expansion will go towards financing the new office and implementing greater marketing and promotions efforts, in addition to paying off the tree light bill.
The BIA has already paid off half the $53,000 bill and the city has agreed to amortize the rest into next year.
Former city planner Alan Herbert is cautiously optimistic about the plan to expand the Village, but is concerned the initiative might dilute the area’s unique gay character.
“If the extension will involve simply extending the flags and lighting to Denman or Granville, then I don’t see much controversy,” he says. “If the borders extend beyond that, it could have an effect on the established character of the Village.
“The Village itself has developed a character that’s late and safe,” he explains, pointing to its all-hours atmosphere and late night restaurants and bars.
If the Village were to extend through areas that were darker and quieter at night, less developed areas with less pedestrian traffic and more petty crime, its reputation that so many have worked so hard to build could be compromised.
“If it’s just a land grab, don’t bother,” Herbert says. “If it’s truly a way to strengthen and build on the Village and its gay character, then go for it.”
This proposed expansion, he says, is “more of an economic decision than anything else.”
Atkinson says the BIA is not rushing into an expansion plan simply to cover its debt. “We now have full-time office space and a coordinator. We can make some real progress,” he reiterates.
When asked if the BIA would be looking to expand if there had not been an accounting error, Atkinson says, “Yes, we’d be expanding now no matter what.”
With a larger area and budget, the BIA will be able to devote more time and money to bringing commerce into the Village, he says.
Expanding the BIA’s territory to cover its debt is not without risk. The BIA is financed by the city from levies on merchants and property owners. The size of the levy depends on the assessed values of the buildings and businesses in the BIA territory. The more numerous the businesses and the more floor space they occupy, the larger the levy and the more money for the BIA. If the BIA annexes an area without sufficient cash-generating-potential to meet its new budget, it could still face a shortfall.
There’s also the question of whether the merchants in the proposed expansion area will be willing to participate. “It’s important that any new members in the annexed area are on the same page and understand that the established character of the Village will not change,” Herbert maintains.
To those who may object to being part of a gay village, Atkinson remains firm. “I’m perfectly open to hearing marketing ideas for the BIA that have the same power to increase business as the gay Village does. If you’re uncomfortable with sexual diversity on moral grounds, then frankly I’m not really interested in hearing about it.”
There are a number of next steps to get the project off the ground. “The city has a clear process we need to follow to expand the BIA,” says Atkinson. “The first step is to establish a committee. We’ll need to survey the merchants in the proposed expansion area to find out what their feelings are. Then there should be some public consultation to gauge people’s willingness to participate. We’ll be able to ask for boundary expansion at our next quarterly review with the city.”