Association’s Board and critics agree a restart is needed
The sign may still be hanging but inside is a very different story.
A crew is gutting what is now the former office of the Nanaimo Downtown Business Improvement Association.
Staff was laid off in January and now the board is recommending the association be dissolved.
“We absolutely believe it’s the right thing to do for the long term best interests of Nanaimo,” says Association President John Cooper. “And is sort of the best outcome given what led to the funding cuts from the City of Nanaimo.”
The Association was dealt a huge blow when the city stopped providing a $250,000 matching grant.
“Nobody else was doing it,” says City Councillor Jerry Hong, on why Council cut the matching grant. “Other DBIA’s survived on their own downtown merits of the merchants themselves and we could do the same here.”
The Association’s president says that promptly led to cash flow problems which led to the layoffs and office closure.
Now with 21 months before needing a new strategic plan he says the organization needs a restart.
Cooper says the association has “put some money aside to support the legalities around forming a new funding model, a new membership model that gets the City of Nanaimo excited, that gets the business and property owners excited, in a way that it hasn’t to date.”
But while Nanaimo’s downtown is in need of a organization to boost its fortunes some here aren’t sad to see the current Association go.
“I’ve never received a single benefit from the Downtown Business Improvement Association,” says Clifford Wiltshire, owner of Rasta Troll. “They’re absolutely no use to me.”
“For a long time now I’ve seen that they do a little bit in the community but not as much as could be done,” says Dave Lawrence of That 50’s Barber Shop.
Critics say the organization was spending too much on wages and administration.
“And not enough on events and doing stuff downtown,” says Property Owner Kevan Shaw. “Tangible events and tangible improvements of fixing it up and banners and planters.”
The association’s president disputes that but there is one thing all sides agree on.
The downtown core needs a unified group to promote its interests.