Tuesday, April 14th 2015. Aaron Humes Reporting: In conjunction with the Caribbean Local Economic Development Project (CARILED), the Belize City Council today hosted a volunteer under the auspices of the Canadian Technical Assistance Program to present the concept of a Business Improvement Area to businessmen and other residents of Belize City, particularly those in the downtown area stretching from Birds’ Isle to Regent Street West including several of the landmarks to be renovated under the $15 million Taiwan-funded Downtown and House of Culture Rejuvenation Project.
In simple terms, a BIA, which was first established in the Canadian province of Ontario, brings together local businesspersons and commercial property owners and tenants to work together, along with the local government, to organize and carry out physical improvements and promote economic development in their area, for the cost of a simple membership fee.
Technical Advisor and President of the Ontario BIA Association Andrea Steenbakker, who has been working with BIA’s in her native Ottawa for a decade, says such organizations can address issues of physical improvement, safety and security and ease of business.
Mayor of Belize City Darrell Bradley says community participation of the kind inspired by the BIA might have saved him some headaches during the construction of the Battlefield Park, which he used as an example of the kind of participation he is seeking. His main lesson from that project which saw multiple protests over lack of consultation is that to a large extent, the support of the community is necessary for such major projects to go through, regardless of what is initially conceptualized.
And the Mayor envisions possible benefits for residents willing to participate including tax incentives. If today’s participants are agreeable, a working group will be established for further liaison and a BIA could be established within two months.
Other areas to be considered include Princess Margaret Drive and the Philip Goldson Highway as well as Mahogany Street and Central American Boulevard.
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