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What is a BIA?

A Business Improvement Area (BIA) is made up of commercial and industrial property owners and their non-residential tenants who join together under a volunteer Board of Management (BIA Board) to carry out improvements and promote economic development within their designated area.

There are currently 83 BIAs PDF in the City of Toronto. They work in partnership with the City to enhance and promote business areas as safe, vibrant places to do business, unique destinations for tourists and focal points for neighbourhood activity.

Administration and strategic management of a BIA is the responsibility of the BIA Board. Among their responsibilities, BIA Boards:

  • Oversee the improvement, beautification and maintenance of municipally-owned land, buildings and structures in the business improvement area
  • Promote the business improvement area as a business, employment, tourist or shopping area
  • Undertake safety, security and crime-prevention initiatives
  • Prepare strategic plans to address BIA issues
  • Advocate on behalf of the interests of the BIA, subject to certain limits contained in¬†Toronto Municipal Code, Chapter 19, Business Improvement Areas¬†PDF

The financing of BIA operating budgets is raised by a special property tax levy on the commercial and industrial properties within the BIA boundary. The City funds a portion of capital projects undertaken by BIAs for streetscaping under the BIA Capital Cost-Sharing Program, an incentive program offered to the City’s BIAs that leverages investments from BIAs to improve, beautify, enhance and brand Toronto’s unique neighbourhoods. Find out about BIA Financial Incentive Programs offered by the City.

How is a BIA Governed ?

BIA Boards are established by City Council as City Boards under the City of Toronto Act, 2006 Opens in new window in accordance with Toronto Municipal Code, Chapter 19, Business Improvement Areas, which sets out procedures for the establishment and operation of BIA Boards and the composition of each BIA Board.

BIA Boards are composed of public directors and City Councillors. The public directors are elected by the BIA membership and recommended to the Community Council in which the BIA is located for appointment. If a BIA is located within the geographic area of more than one Community Council, Council shall appoint the directors. The Councillors for the wards in which a BIA is located are Board directors by-right-of-office. BIA Board Chairs are elected by the BIA Board directors.

Find out about opportunities to serve on a BIA Board of Management.

What are the benefits of a BIA?

By creating a strong and distinct image for a neighbourhood shopping area and marketing it effectively, the main benefits of a BIA start with the fact that it can better compete in an age of shopping malls, big-box retailing and e-commerce.

BIAs can be catalysts for civic improvement and significant contributors to the City’s economy and the quality of life of our neighbourhoods. In order to help local commercial areas create thriving, competitive and safe business areas, the City of Toronto, through the Economic Development & Culture Division, offers a number of assistance programs to BIAs.

One of the more successful BIA programs is the Capital Cost-share Program, which provides matching funding to BIAs for streetscape beautification projects. These projects help create a more attractive and marketable image for the area and improve the atmosphere in neighbourhoods.

Financial assistance is also available to BIAs to implement mural projects; commercial façade improvements and streetscape master plans.

How do BIAs improve the local economy?

BIAs improve their local economies through activities such as:

  • Street and sidewalk maintenance and capital improvements
  • Promotion of the BIA as a business, employment, tourist or shopping area (business directories, festivals, advertising)
  • Hosting neighbourhood festivals and events
  • Safety, security and crime prevention initiatives
  • Graffiti and poster removal services respecting building facades visible from the street
  • Strategic plans for business recruitment, market studies and capital improvements
  • Advocate on behalf of their membership as a unified voice
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