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Davie Street Dance Party bad for business again: Regan

WEBIA focused on revitalizing and promoting West End, AGM hears

“Pride needs to think about why it needs to have a beer garden to raise money,” says WEBIA executive director Stephen Regan. “Is that the best way to celebrate?” Credit: Shauna Lewis

The West End Business Improvement Association (WEBIA) hopes to build on existing, popular West End events as a way to promote, revitalize and bring revenue to the area in 2014.

Executive director Stephen Regan told attendees at WEBIA’s annual general meeting Sept 25 that he’d like to organize a trolley tour of the neighbourhood to coincide with St Paul’s Hospital’s annual display of decorative lights for the holidays.

WEBIA also partnered this year with the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS), hoping to find ways to attract business to Davie Street and the West End during the Pride celebrations.

But, Regan said, because of the gated beer garden that segregated consumers from businesses, some businesses in the gay village were more hurt than helped by the Davie Street Dance Party.

“It wasn’t great [for business] again,” he said. Businesses were affected all day long and, other than for the bars, “it’s not ideal for businesses.”

Regan said he hopes to work with the VPS to find a way to possibly make the gated beer garden smaller, so businesses won’t be as affected.

“Pride needs to think about why it needs to have a beer garden to raise money,” Regan said. “Is that the best way to celebrate?”

The remaining rainbow banners that hang throughout the gay village will also be removed and replaced with WEBIA banners next week, Regan noted.

WEBIA changed the Village’s banners in phases this year. The “Davie” banners, adorned with a small rainbow attached to the bottom of the banner, were replaced in the spring. 

As part of WEBIA’s retail analysis strategy, the organization hosted three small community focus groups in early September. Each group attracted between four and 10 people, Regan said. One group focused on seniors, another on St Paul’s hospital staff and the third on members of the LGBT community.

Regan said group participants were asked where they shop and what attracts them to shop, both in the West End and other areas of the city.

“There were a lot of thoughtful people [in the LGBT focus group] who really know the neighbourhood,” Regan said.

Regan said concerns were raised in the LGBT group, which attracted only four people, about an increase in panhandling in the West End.

But overall, he said, the groups’ feedback was positive, and members seemed to like the Bute Street plaza gathering space piloted by the city this summer.

However, businesses around the plaza aren’t as thrilled with the space, Regan admitted. Some businesses have complained about losing the area as an unloading zone, he said.

The plaza is “an inconvenience,” he acknowledged. “It does stop traffic flow.”

WEBIA is also monitoring the area in the hope that it doesn’t attract vagrants, Regan added.

Regan announced that WEBIA will no longer employ people with disabilities on its street maintenance and beautification team.

Street maintenance is an important aspect of promotion and revitalization, he said, and the beautification team plays an important role in setting the right tone.

“We decided in that role not to have Coastal Health or people with some sort of physical or mental disability doing street cleaning or picking up litter,” Regan said. “Our focus is that we’ve got a fantastic neighbourhood. There’s a ton of community pride here. We need happy, healthy, proud residents of the West End . . . young and old people working together.”

According to its financial statement, WEBIA finished the fiscal year with a surplus of  $187,347. In 2012, the organization faced a $56,000 deficit.

Regan says former executive director Lyn Hellyar’s payout fee, and costs associated with the organization’s Streetscape Design and Guideline Report, contributed to last year’s deficit. 

WEBIA’s operating budget is expected to increase by almost seven percent next year, from $700,684 in 2013 to a projected $747,041 for the 2014/2015 fiscal year. 

Regan said much of the upcoming operating budget will be dedicated to promotions and revitalization, with $262,875 allocated to  revitalization efforts and $252,125 set aside for promotion.

Administration costs account for $202,540 of the projected 2014 budget.

“We’re spending a whole lot less on administration,” Regan said, adding that the organization is focusing primarily on ways to form and solidify partnerships, leverage attention from existing events and do what it can to bring revenue to businesses in the West End.

“We’re in the relationship business,” he said. “And we’re doing our best to meet those opportunities.”

Members elected two new directors to WEBIA’s nine-person board: Tania Gorton, from Homewerx and Room in Order, and John Webber, from the Royal Bank. They join returning directors Lisa Arthurs (Quick Nickel), Michael Makowy (HSBC Bank), Gary Gohren (Gohren & Associates Chartered Accountants), Joe Skocan (No Frills), Mary Phelps (Vancity), David Buddle (Prima Properties) and Michel Duprat (The Fountainhead Pub).

Buddle was elected chair of the board, Arthurs vice-chair and Duprat the treasurer.