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Village absorbed by Bank Street BIA

Merger makes sense, Kevin Martin says

Stroked Ego owner Kevin Martin, who is a director of both the Village committee and the Bank Street BIA, says the merger will ensure new rainbow flags along Bank Street and banners marking the Village for Pride. Credit: Bradley Turcotte
The Bank Street Business Improvement Area (BIA) will now look after Ottawa’s gay village, having struck a subcommittee April 23 to manage the area.

For the last year, the Village has been run by an independent committee of gay business owners who work in the area.

Stroked Ego owner Kevin Martin, who is a director of both the Village committee and the Bank Street BIA, says the absorption makes sense as both organizations have similar goals for Bank Street.

The Village spans six blocks from Nepean to James streets, overlapping the BIA’s catchment area, which is from Wellington to Gladstone streets.

“When I started to work for the BIA two years ago, they wanted to move forward with the Village, and the Village wanted to do the same thing the BIA was doing. You guys are on the same path; you both want the same thing,” Martin says. “The Village has a bunch of people who are very eager to make a certain portion, a cultural designation, of the Bank Street BIA better, so let’s do it together.”

As a subcommittee of the BIA, the Village committee will now have access to the BIA’s administrative resources and will receive funding. Martin estimates the BIA has allotted $20,000 to the Village so far this year.

These funds will go toward new rainbow flags to replace the weathered ones currently dotting Bank Street.

In addition, banners will be purchased to be put up during Pride, something Martin says is needed to increase the visibility of Ottawa’s largest queer celebration.

“Last year, I had a meeting at Bramasole [a diner located near Gladstone]. . . in the middle of the Pride festival. I was walking down the street, and other than the fact that there were a few store windows [with rainbow decals], like Wicked Wanda’s and Wilde’s, you couldn’t tell the Pride festival was even happening. I’m walking in the middle of the culturally designated Village for the community, we’re in the middle of its Pride festival and there’s nothing here that says it. To me, that was one of the big things that we need to cover for this year.”

The Village committee currently comprises Martin, Media Style’s Ian Capstick, Dr Hershel Kagan and Wilde’s Doug Saunders-Riggins.

Martin says the committee would like to attract a more diverse membership. “We wish that there were more of the other groups, like lesbians, trans and people of colour,” he says. “It’s not there yet. We recognize that fact, but we really hope that once the word spreads that this is what we’re trying to do, different communities [will want to become involved].”

Martin says the BIA plans to launch a rebranding campaign for Bank Street that incorporates the Village on May 29. “We don’t want to have something from Wellington to Nepean, then something different to James, and then something different to Gladstone. We want to have a consistent message.”

The motto of the rebranding is “Bank Street: The intersection of everything.”

Asked if the Village will retain its gay character post-rebranding, Martin says the rebranding process acknowledges the importance of the Village.

He believes it’s important for Ottawa’s queer community to have a gay village.