Higher costs may lead to a scaling back — or cutting altogether — of some Church St events next year, the Church-Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area’s (CWVBIA) annual general meeting heard on Nov 19.
CWVBIA board chair and Church St Baskin-Robbins owner Sam Ghazarian told attendees that the Church Street Fetish Fair, Halloweek and CWBVIA’s contribution to the all-night art fest Nuit Blanche were all over budget in 2008. He said he’ll be asking local merchants and community members for input on what should be scaled back or even cut in 2009. A questionnaire was given to those in attendance to collect feedback.
“We had to increase the budget because we realized this year that the costs of barricades, of police as well as city permits have all gone up and we went over budget because of it,” said Ghazarian. “So we’re anticipating increases in all those departments [in the 2009 budget]. Hopefully with this questionnaire and your feedback we may realize that we might not do all those events, but we might only do two of them and see how it works out.”
The 2009 budget was presented by the board and approved without issue. The biggest chunk of the budget — $90,000 — was earmarked for gaybourhood events including Nuit Blanche, the Church Street Fetish Fair and Halloweek, up from $75,000 in 2008. Literary festival Writing Outside the Margins, presented by Xtra, wasn’t included in the budget.
Administrative expenditures were budgeted at $104,000 with $50,000 for staff — up from $32,000 in 2008 in order to pay for part-time or contract help with CWVBIA programs and events.
Capital expenditures for the beautification of the area were budgeted at $31,000 — another $31,000 will come from the City — and include $1,500 for new banners for lampposts and $15,000 for gateway signs to identify district’s borders. An additional $14,500 was allocated for Christmas lights and decorations. The budget for maintenance — including installation, removal and storage of Christmas lights, flower care for the planters and miscellaneous repairs — was set at $33,000.
Promotion and advertising expenditures were budgeted at $101,500, including money for the production of a concierge map to be handed out to hotels in the surrounding area and made available for queer tourists.
Finding ways to increase customer traffic along Church St to improve business during this holiday season was a focus of discussion at the AGM, drawing a number of suggestions from attendees. But Ghazarian said that, although a more coordinated effort may be made in the future, this year it’s up to individual merchants to spruce up their own storefronts to make Church St more inviting to shoppers.
“Hopefully next year we can do more and add more to what we’re doing but we have a lot of great things going on this year,” Ghazarian told attendees, indicating a Nov 22 carol performance by gay choir Singing Out at Cawthra Square Park that kicked off the illumination of the park’s giant red ribbon, part of the gaybourhood’s contribution to the city-wide Cavalcade of Lights. Other local lighting displays include those in the courtyards of apartments along Alexander St.
Also raised as a concern at the meeting was the presence of homeless people in the village and problems with aggressive panhandling. Suggestions included having city outreach workers speak to panhandlers and the homeless about services available to get them off the streets.
The condition of sidewalks and street cleanliness after major events like Pride was also discussed, with some attendees questioning why no funds were earmarked in the budget for sidewalk power washing.