The year was 1970 and a novel idea was taking shape at the Petit Paris, a Bloor Street West bakery. In the back room, a few local businessmen would gather to chat. Two fixtures in the ongoing conversation were Neil McLellan, who owned a jewelry store on Bloor Street West, and William (Bill) Whiteacre, a lawyer.
Everyone was worried about local shops losing customers to the lure of suburban malls. The Bloor subway line had just been completed and every time the train rumbled underfoot, it was a painful reminder of shoppers who were no longer viewing their storefronts on the streetcar.

Whiteacre and McLellan began incubating an idea: In today’s language, they wanted to create a business improvement area (BIA).

This past Saturday, Whiteacre attended a celebration commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Bloor West Village BIA. On May 14, 1970, the City of Toronto passed a bylaw designating the boundaries of Bloor West Village. The plan was subsequently approved by the Ontario Municipal Board, making Bloor West Village the first BIA in Canada.

Today, countless neighbourhoods have replicated the concept, including communities in Japan, Germany and the United States, according to current BIA chair Paula McInerney.  Toronto alone has 71 BIAs on its map. 

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Published On Mon Apr 19 2010