A Business Improvement Area (BIA) is an association of commercial property owners and tenants within a defined geographic area who join together, with official approval of the City, in a self-help program aimed at stimulating local business. The BIA works in partnership with the City to create thriving, competitive, and safe business areas that attract shoppers, diners, tourists, and new businesses. There are over 300 BIAs in Ontario, representing over 60,000 local businesses. Read more about the history and role of BIA’s in this handbook written by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Generally the BIA arises from the businesses in the area wanting to increase the positive energy and experience of the downtown. Members look to the BIA to focus on the promotion, beautification, safety on the streets, establishing awareness of events as well as liaising with the City and other community partners, which in turn establishes and animates the local community.
What is the Downtown Oshawa BIA?
The Downtown Oshawa Business Improvement Area (BIA) is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. The Board is nominated at an Annual General Meeting and, once approved by City Council, serves a four-year term concurrent with the term of Council. The Board works on behalf of its BIA and meets regularly to develop budgets, set priorities, implement capital improvements, plan festivals, and promote its business area.
Once a BIA is approved by City Council, every business within its boundaries automatically becomes a member. There are no exceptions, under the principle that all who benefit should be required to bear their fair share of the cost of the program.
Created in 1974, the Downtown Oshawa BIA recently expanded the boundary (2017). There are two staff that work for the 400+ members that reside within the boundary. BIAs use their own money in an ongoing effort to draw more prospective customers to their area by improving the attractiveness of the area and promoting it as a good place to shop, visit and do business.
A Brief History
Oshawa has become one of the fastest growing cities in Canada, although statements to this effect are often in reference to the Census Metropolitan Area, which includes neighbouring Whitby and Clarington. Oshawa achieved a record-setting year of growth in 2015 with over a half a billion
dollars in construction value (breaking its previous record in 2014). Many commuters have been enticed to Oshawa by comparatively low housing prices and the regular rail service into downtown Toronto provided by GO Transit and Via Rail.
Downtown Oshawa is identified as an Urban Growth Centre in the Government of Ontario's Places to Grow initiative. More than 5,000 people work and more than 2,400 university students study in the downtown core. The downtown is a prominent centre for entertainment and sporting events (Regent Theatre and Tribute Communities Centre), food (60+ restaurants and cafes) and culture (The Robert McLaughlin Gallery and Canadian Automotive Museum). Oshawa is home to a Regional Innovation Centre and offers start-up facilities for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Co-working offices are also located in the downtown.
In spring 2016, Oshawa was ranked No. 1 city for jobs in Canada when compared to 33 cities across the country. The trend suggests major social and demographic changes for Oshawa, which has long had a history of a reliance on manufacturing, specially with a focus on automobiles led by General Motors. The nature of our population, commerce and our workforce is rapidly changing.
Today, with a population of over 166,000, Oshawa is the largest municipality in Durham Region. It is home to three post-secondary institutions and is rich in arts and cultural assets, with over 500 cultural businesses, events and festivals.
Oshawa is rapidly becoming the choice destination to live. Being only 30 minutes from Toronto, many people find it convenient to live in Oshawa and work in Toronto. Downtown Oshawa is doing its part to respond to this increased demand. Recently, approximately 200 residential units have been completed with many more on the way. Some of the upcoming developments are designed for students whereas others are being designed with families in mind.
Soon we will see the construction of a new Go Station just south of the downtown, further encouraging people to locate in Oshawa. Our downtown has it all; medical services, places of worship, public transportation, night life, shopping and restaurants galore. For the active person, we have the YMCA and the bicycle paths going through the downtown. Downtown is quite active with numerous events and festivals throughout the year including wine festivals, outdoor events, concerts in the park and much much more, all making Oshawa a very attractive location to reside.
Downtown also provides a beautiful and safe location in which to live, shop, and do business. With galleries, culture and related events, unique stores, essential services, and diverse restaurants, Downtown Oshawa has it all and offers a lifestyle that differs from any other part of the city. So many amenities within walking distance of a couple of city blocks makes living downtown convenient and healthy.