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West End association still serving gay village, say members

Promoting Davie Street central to WEBIA’s new five-year strategy, says ED

Eight years after the Davie Village’s business improvement association expanded to represent the entire West End, its executive director says enhancing the gay village remains a key focus of the organization.

Stephen Regan points to the new Jim Deva Plaza in the heart of the gay village at Bute Street; continued collaboration on the annual Davie Street Pride party; and planned patio improvements and parklets on Davie Street between Thurlow and Jervis.

“We wanted to find ways to encourage a more vibrant streetscape where people can socialize, have a meal and have a drink,” Regan says. “But there’s still many hurdles with liquor licences, bus stops and other practical things you have to take into consideration,” he notes.

Regan envisions the new Bute Street plaza, renamed in July in honour of late community leader Jim Deva, as an inviting, attractive and engaged public space.

“In terms of the plaza itself, we want to make sure we do it right,” he says. “It’d be great if it was up and running in time for Pride going, but on the same token we wouldn’t want to rush the process because this plaza is going to have Jim’s name on it for some time.”

He says the West End Business Improvement Association (WEBIA) is working with the city to secure funding for ongoing maintenance and lighting of the plaza. He says a staff report from the city is expected by December 2015.

Regan says WEBIA’s efforts to promote Davie Street are central to its five-year strategic plan that received unanimous approval from association members at their annual general meeting on Sept 23, 2015.

“On the promotion side of things we’re certainly working with Pride more closely,” he notes. “This is a prime example of how we are trying to do a more strategic job and a better job of supporting the LGBT community and celebrating Pride, the movement and the people.”

Vince Marino, co-owner of Davie Street’s Junction and PumpJack pubs, was president of the Davie Village Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) when its membership voted to expand their catchment area in 2006. He thinks the enlarged BIA has helped preserve and strengthen Davie Street’s gay character.

“The BIA has actually done an amazing job, especially in in the last three years, of working with the whole West End from the West End Community Plan,” he says. “In my mind it’s deeply representative of all aspects of our community, whether it’s Davie, Denman or Robson. They are definitely looking at the community as a whole, which also includes all the various aspects of the gay community.”

Celebrities Nightclub manager and former DVBIA president James Steck agrees with Marino and says WEBIA has done a great job of promoting and supporting the gay village as the area grows.

“The Jim Deva plaza will be a great improvement to the village,” he adds, “as long as it doesn’t attract drug traffickers or anything like that.”

Marino also has high hopes for the proposed patio zone on Davie Street. He hopes it will incorporate the best aspects of the Davie Street Pride party to create a more pedestrian-oriented streetscape throughout the year.

According to financial statements presented at its annual general meeting, WEBIA ended the fiscal year with a surplus of $38,373. The biggest expenditures included advertising and promotion, wages and employee benefits, contractors and street lighting. Almost 99 percent of its funding comes from a levy collected by the city from area property owners and businesses.

In renewing its mandate, WEBIA members also approved a five percent levy increase, which raises revenue projection from $794,417 in 2015 to $833,637 for the 2016/2017 fiscal year.

The voting members in attendance acclaimed two new board members: Steck, and Brian Rohl from Coast Plaza Hotel and Suites.

They join returning WEBIA directors Lisa Arthurs (Quick Nickel Clothing); David Buddle (Prima Properties); Michel Duprat (The Fountainhead Pub), who begins a term as chair; Gary Gohren (Gohren and Associates Chartered Accountant); John Nicholson (Listel Canada); Jacqui McMullen (Times Square Suites); Mary Phelps (Vancity); and Joe Skokan (Joe’s No Frills).