The West End Business Improvement Association (WEBIA) unveiled new street banners and announced new partnerships at its brand launch June 12.
The launch attracted approximately 50 partners, community members, business owners and stakeholders.
WEBIA began looking at rebranding the West End a year ago as part of its strategic plan to create a unique and unifying brand for the area’s three commercial streets.
“It is a clear and bold new identity for one of North America’s most iconic neighbourhoods,” says Paul Nixey, CEO of Nixey Communications.
Nixey, along with Jill Tracy, president of Creative B’stro, began designing the brand last summer.
“We were hoping that we could create a visual identity that felt fresh and felt relevant and that could tell a story and extend over time and that would be able to evolve with the neighbourhood and businesses as things grew,” Tracy says. “We think that we’ve achieved just that.”
Nixey says researchers consulted business owners, stakeholders, West End residents and the gay community.
The rebranding means the West End’s three commercial streets – Denman, Davie and Robson – will soon sport two new banners each: one with its own street name and the other with WEBIA’s new logo.
The logo features three vertical blocks to represent the density of Vancouver, next to three horizontal blocks to represent the West End’s three main commercial streets. Together they shape WE.
“We are talking about togetherness and inclusiveness,” Nixey says. “We think the strength of these three great streets in one amazing neighbourhood reflected in this logo brings these elements together.”
The banners are colour-coded: blue for Denman, to acknowledge its close proximity to the ocean; green for Robson, to represent the lushness of Stanley Park; and purple for Davie Street, which highlights its additional banner feature – a rainbow flag at its base.
The neighbourhood-wide WEBIA banner intended for installation in the Davie Village also sports a rainbow at its base.
The banners with rainbows will fly in the gay village on Davie between Burrard and Jervis streets.
“I’m really excited that they decided to keep the rainbow flags and that they’re doubling the flags on the bottom [of the banners]. It feels like it’s more rainbow coverage,” says Vancouver Pride Society general manager Ray Lam.
The co-chair of the City of Vancouver’s LGBTQ advisory committee says “it’s essential and critical” to incorporate the rainbow into the new banners. “We can’t forget that Davie Village has always been a queer mecca,” Dean Malone says. “People have come to look for the flag, and they come to Davie Street to find us.”
“I’m okay with how the banners are looking. And I appreciate that the BIA is looking to put up the banners in a phased approach” he adds.
WEBIA plans to replace its own street-side banners immediately in the Davie Village. But it will wait until September to remove the curbside full rainbow banners and replace them with the new Davie banners adorned with smaller Pride flags.
“The feedback we got was that it was too much change” to remove the existing Pride banners so suddenly, says Stephen Regan, WEBIA’s executive director. “So we will leave them until September and add more Pride.”
In addition to the new branding, Regan says WEBIA has formed new partnerships, including with the Vancouver Pride Society.
“We’ve worked together with the BIA this year to really improve Davie Street and our street party, so instead of having four fenced beer gardens on Davie Street, we’ve reduced it down to two to reduce the impact on the businesses along the streets,” Lam says.
With WEBIA’s assistance, Lam hopes to remove the beer garden fencing altogether from Davie next year for an open street party.
WEBIA has also established partnerships with Tourism Vancouver, Fresh Air Cinema and the Celebration of Light to bring entertainment, decorative lighting and, ultimately, tourism dollars to the West End.
“So we’ve got all the makings to have three great streets and to build those streets so they’re absolutely world-class,” Regan says.
Malone would like to see more recognition of the gay community’s contribution to the area.
“I think there’s still not a complete understanding, from the dollars and cents perspective, about what it really means to have our money on that street,” he says.
“If queer folks weren’t living in the West End, and we weren’t shopping on Davie, what would that mean?” he asks.
“I’ve asked that question to the BIA,” he continues. “And they haven’t [examined] that yet.”
Malone says the gay community is barely mentioned in the retail consultant report that WEBIA recently submitted to the city. “We have a couple of gratuitous mentions, I think,” he says.
Regan says that’s not true. “They’re in,” he says. “It does include the queer community; we’ve got a final report.”
“But it wasn’t a demographic study per se,” he notes. “And besides, in a demographic study you can’t go, ‘Oh, by the way, how old are you and are you queer? Even Stats Canada can’t give you that.”
Xtra has requested a copy of WEBIA’s retail report.
Malone says he’ll be watching WEBIA closely.
“I love the West End BIA, but I’ve encouraged them to make sure that the queer community is a partner in the work that they’re doing, because if you miss us . . . if we aren’t included in your retail plans for Davie Street, you will not succeed,” he says.
“I think the BIA is learning very quickly of the presence we have on that street,” he says.