50 Years of Connecting People and Place

We recently shared some fun facts about our association over on our Instagram Stories! Did you know the Old Strathcona Business Improvement Area overlaps multiple neighbourhoods; Garneau, Queen Alexandra, Strathcona and Ritchie? Or, that we represent almost 600 businesses and organizations in the Old Strathcona & Whyte Avenue District?

This week marks 50 years since the creation of the very first Business Improvement Area (BIA). And it was right here in Canada! Bloor West Village pioneered the BIA concept and became the first one in 1970. Since then, BIAs have been adopted across the world, and by 500+ communities in Canada. The Old Strathcona Business Association was established on September 14, 1993 and is one of 13 total BIAs in the City of Edmonton!   

But, what do we do?

Well, a lot! But always with a few things in mind. Our mission is to foster a thriving business and destination district that is inviting to patrons, tourists, and businesses. We share a commitment with the City of Edmonton to build a vibrant economy.  

How do we do that?

Again, in a lot of ways…but some of the highlights are:  

  • Beautification: Enhancing the look and feel of the district with flowers, lights, and public art 
  • Safety: Develop partnerships and strategies that contribute to a more walkable, clean, and inclusive neighbourhood    
  • Marketing: Amplifying all of the amazing events, businesses, and festivals that take place in Old Strathcona  

If you would like to learn more, check out the About Us page on our website!  

Why are BIAs important?  

Remember Bloor West Village, the very first BIA? You might wonder how this idea came to be. For that, we thank Alex Ling. In the late ’60s shopping malls took over the market, forcing many retailers to either close their shops or, follow the crowds and move into a mall. As a result, the community saw increased vacancies in local shopping districts, and properties started to deteriorate. Alex Ling stepped in out of frustration and worked with a group to seek provincial legislation for the purpose of collecting a levy which would then fund revitalization of the shopping strip through physical improvements and promotional activities.  

BIAs were born out of necessity, due to a declining market. Out of a desire to bring local businesses and property owners together, recognizing that they could accomplish more as a group. We are proud to continue this tradition of championing the needs of small and local businesses, right here in Old Strathcona!  

Annie MacInnis from the Kensington BIA in Calgary, summed it up best in a recent article, “BIAs are where tourists visit, where you go for first dates and holidays, for weekend brunches and unique shopping. They are the character, walkable, charming main streets you want to live close to and spend time in.”

Thank you to the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association, for providing BIAs across the country with this information to share the history of BIAs, and to celebrate 50 years of connecting people & place.