The Heights Merchants Association as a society dates back to the 1980s, but it officially formed as a BIA (Business Improvement Area) on May 1, 1994. That makes us the same age as Millennials! Like Millennials, our BIA is very hard working, entrepreneurial, constantly innovating, and places a high value on meaningful work (and good-looking selfies).
In turning 25 years old, there is much to reflect on.
The BIA was first founded as an 8-block district on Hastings Street from Boundary Road to Willingdon Avenue. In 1999, it expanded an additional 3 blocks to Gamma Avenue. Then, in 2006, it expanded to include the anchoring properties just east of Gamma.
25 years ago, the merchants of the Heights were facing what they feared would be a crippling loss of their pedestrian-friendly street and prime street parking to a fast-rushing HOV lane. How were they to compete and thrive? The new HMA advocated hard to get the HOV Lane time reduced and for replacement parking.
In the 25 years that followed, the HMA also advocated for, or created, many programs and initiatives. From street furniture (park benches, bike racks), street banners, public murals, tree lights on Hastings, to many events like Hats Off Day and Halloween, to marketing initiatives and a web site to promote and highlight local businesses so they could compete with bigger players.
We undertook advocacy work for our area, including pushing for adequate and effective shuttle bus and local bus route service, mixed-use (residential and retail) zoning east of Willingdon, working to save the Heights Swinging Girl neon sign; not to mention everyday challenges stemming from road construction to BC Hydro planned shortages. There was never a shortage of things to tackle, and the HMA staff and Board rose to the challenges.
We also undertook a lot of projects with our community, such as Heights Fountain Square Mosaic (fountain), the TransCanada Trail, Heritage Signage, and more.
In the years ahead, the HMA looks forward to exploring new and different initiatives, including a Hanging Flower Basket Program, and different forms of public art. Of course, Hats Off Day will continue to be a vital shared experience, and we will continue all the regular events and programming our community and merchants continue to need and expect, such as litter pick up, graffiti prevention, marketing, and public art and place-making initiatives.
Thank you for being part of this journey and we will see you along the path for another 25 years, at least!