January was a rough month for poor old Elgin Street, a couple a water main breaks and businesses closed or flooded or maybe both because of it. There was lost business and cancelled reservations. Old infrastructure is going to cost more money the longer it takes to plan, tender and start the replacement of what currently sits beneath the asphalt along Elgin Street.
Leadership is missing to organize the merchants and owners along this street, Somerset Councillor Diane Holmes says that there have been past attempts to bring everyone together but they have failed, leaving poor old Elgin left to its own resources.
The tragedy in this scenario is that Elgin Street will HAVE to be fixed sooner rather than later and when it comes to having one organized voice to speak for merchants and businesses, there will be none and the design plans will have no input from those that rely on area residents and others to shop and enjoy an meal along Elgin Street.
In 2010 while working on my campaign in Somerset Ward, I had the pleasure of meeting individually with four of the five BIA’s that are in the Ward. The Bank Street, Preston Street and Chinatown BIA’s along with the Mall management of Sparks Street all presented a strong defense of their businesses and a passion to do what their members demanded for their best interests. The BIA’s also worked with the City (not always successfully) to make changes and improve their section of the City. There is a Somerset Village BIA, however I was not able to have a meeting with their Executive Director during that time I was a candidate.
The need for an Elgin BIA goes past the replacement of infrastructure; it leads to having a good and productive relationship with the City of Ottawa, the Ottawa Police and with the Centretown Citizens Community Association. The BIA would be empowered to work with the NCC and the many Run and Event Organizers that come into the Downtown and use portions of Elgin Street for their events. Without a united and organized voice the merchants are left at the whim of what the City permits to take place on Elgin.
I am not naive and realize that politics will play a major part in how this is all going to go down. There will be the City Councillor against certain merchants, merchant vs. merchant and even residents vs. merchants in the battle to become one strong organization. There needs to be leadership to bring everyone together.
During the formation of an Elgin BIA there is one bond that should keep everyone together, the need to keep Elgin street a viable place to do business. That should be enough to start the conversation; from there it could be anyone’s guess as to what path the Elgin BIA follows.
If anyone is interested in seeing Elgin Street form a Business Improvement Area (BIA), please contact me, I would like to see this to happen and am offering my services to the area shops, restaurants and hotels. As a resident near Elgin and user of its shops and businesses, I want to see the current businesses on Elgin survive and create a strong commercial area for others to do business in.
I can be found Twitter @robertdekker and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. Please follow me and send your thoughts on this and other postings.