Board members of the West End Business Improvement Association (WEBIA) say that revitalizing public space in the gay village is the first step in their long-term strategy to increase business and community engagement in the West End.
The future of Bute Street plaza, the introduction of a lighting program on Davie Street, and the installation of new banners throughout WEBIA’s catchment area were discussed at the association’s Sept 24 annual general meeting.
A portion of Bute Street, between Burnaby and Davie streets, was turned into a temporary, pedestrian-only meeting and celebration space during the summer months, one of the 33 recommendations made by the City of Vancouver’s LGBTQ advisory committee.
However, WEBIA’s board would not guarantee that the plaza would be a permanent fixture without further study and investment.
“What would really make that flourish and what we’ve heard back from the community is that it has to be animated,” outgoing board chair David Buddle said. “There has to be programs; there has to be things going on. Otherwise it can deteriorate and become an area of public loitering and some mischief.” Buddle noted that some business owners told WEBIA and the city that “things were deteriorating there to some degree.”
In July, WEBIA also partnered with the city to install a permanent stretch of rainbow-coloured LED lights along Davie between Burrard and Jervis streets. The lights, which were financed by the city, cost $260,000.
“The Davie Street lighting installation is permanent,” WEBIA’s executive director Stephen Regan said. “It probably has a lifespan of seven years. We’re negotiating with the city on how to make sure they have a financial plan so that for the next 25 years we’ve got a lighting program in Davie Village that’s unique, programmable, vibrant and exciting.”
He noted that WEBIA had also increased the number of rainbow banners throughout the catchment area.
“We tripled the number of Pride flags and have now extended it throughout the West End, and at the corners of Davie and Bute, they are back as full banners,” he added. “Going forward, there’s nothing stopping us from looking at how and to implement them over time.”
WEBIA invested most of their budget and ended the fiscal year with a surplus of $17,723. The biggest expenditures included advertising and promotion, wages and employee benefits, contractors and street lighting.
WEBIA’s revenue projection is expected to increase by almost seven percent next year, from $716,352 in 2013 to $794,417 for the 2015/2016 fiscal year. The vast majority of their funding comes from a levy collected by the city from area property owners and businesses.
“This board has been committed to laying the foundation for future success in terms of financial management, governance, branding, urban planning and a retail strategy that will see the West End rise up and be recognized as one of the best places in the city to own commercial real estate and operate a business,” Buddle says.
The 26 voting members in attendance acclaimed two new board members: Jacquie McMullen, from Times Square Suites, and Paul Puratich, from 1789 Restaurant and Lounge. They join returning directors Lisa Arthurs (Quick Nickel Clothing), who is the new chair; David Buddle (Prima Properties); Michel Duprat (The Fountainhead Pub); Gary Gohren (Gohren and Associates Chartered Accountant); Tania Gorton (Room in Order); John Nicholson (Listel Canada); Mary Phelps (Vancity); Joe Skokan (Joe’s No Frills); and John Webber (Royal Bank of Canada).
Board members also paid tribute to Little Sister’s co-owner Jim Deva, who died Sept 21, and former WEBIA executive director Lyn Hellyar, who died July 10.
Buddle praised Deva as a business leader and community icon whose passion for the West End and the LGBT community will be fondly remembered. He said his sudden passing shocked everyone.
“Steve and I were just chatting with Jim the other day; he was in good spirits and was planning to attend our AGM tonight,” Buddle noted. “We chatted on the street about the efforts needed to improve Bute Plaza and to continue to attract tourism to the West End.”
Regan said the association will honour Deva’s memory and legacy through their ongoing commitment to create vibrant spaces for the LGBT community in line with the West End Community Plan, which was adopted last November.
Buddle said the association has begun to canvass opinion about an appropriate tribute to Deva.
Buddle also paid tribute to Hellyar. “We want to acknowledge her contributions and legacy. In particular, she was instrumental in the expansion of the Davie Village BIA into the West End BIA,” he noted. “Lyn was also very involved in supporting the growth of the BC BIA network and creating the Vancouver BIA Partnership. Both of these BIA organizations are contributing to what is ongoing success.” Donations can be made to the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre in Hellyar’s memory, he said, adding that the WEBIA board plans to make a contribution to the centre.
Hellyar came into conflict with the gay community in 2008 when she temporarily removed the rainbow banners from Davie Street’s lamp standards and replaced them with banners promoting the Triathlon World Championships. The rainbow banners were reinstalled following public outcry.