Turmoil and empty storefronts in downtown Nanaimo has led to a massive funding cut of the group charged with making things better there.
This week the city decided to cut its funding to the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association. Businesses aren’t happy with what’s being achieved with their hard earned money and now many are wondering what will be done to turn the situation in that downtown around.
On a sunny Saturday Nanaimo’s downtown is shining. But many business owners say it’s a daily struggle to keep their doors open here.
“Well that one’s empty, that one’s empty. This one’s virtually empty,” says Cliff Wiltshire pointing at empty storefronts.
Wiltshire runs the Rasta Troll pipe shop and says his female employees feel unsafe coming to work here.
“I can’t begin to count the number of times that those women have had to step over drug addicts sleeping in my lobby or in front of my building, the number of times that I’ve had to hire someone to clean feces off of my building,” says Wiltshire.
“That’s gotta be cleaned up,” agrees downtown building owner Kevan Shaw. “And we’ve seen very little help from the BIA in that respect,” he says
Now the city is stepping in, taking away the grant it has been giving the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement association for the past 16 years. Downtown Businesses pay a levy to the DNBIA, for promotion, security and revitalization programs and the city has been matching that with a grant until now, totalling a half million dollars per year. But after a core review determined it was an unprecedented amount of money and businesses voiced disappointment with results,
“They’re not being any return on their investments into the DNBIA,” says Coun. Gord Fuller.
The group has been forced to layoff staff this week and put a hold on all programs until it figures out what to do next.
“Emergency board meeting on February 1st and we’r going to make some tough decisions on how we can make the best of the resources we have for the next 23 months,” says DNBIA President John Cooper.
But Cooper defends the work his group is doing.
“The last 16 years of our city partnership is not going to go to waste. We’re going to make sure that something comes of it,” he says.
At a time, many feel this downtown is at a crossroads.
“You know what I see happening here over the next five years without some positive action? I see this looking just like the downtown Eastside of Vancouver,” says Wiltshire. “Without positive change this area of downtown Nanaimo will be a ghost town.”
As the same social problems across the water, make an increasingly public presence here.