As the traditional farmers market season winds down, the new ByWard Market District Authority is rolling up its sleeves and getting to work in anticipation of its official launch next spring.
In June, city council approved a staff report that set in motion a major revitalization effort for the ByWard and Parkdale markets. Under the recommendations, the ByWard Market BIA and the municipal corporation that oversaw the area, Ottawa Markets, were dissolved to form a new municipal corporation called the ByWard Market District Authority. Its mandate includes “enhancing the resident and visitor experience” and supporting property and business interests in the ByWard and Parkdale markets.
According to executive director Zachary Dayler, the new organization is currently in its “startup phase.”
The 24th edition of the World Partnership Golf returned to Camelot Golf & Country Club on Sept. 11 with a sold-out event and a record-setting fundraising total.
The board of directors is focused on recruiting more members and a new business advisory committee is in the works, he said, while the authority works on its internal structure. By the end of September, Dayler said the BIA and Ottawa Markets websites will be merged, with services such as the business directory and vendor applications available under one banner.
Over the next few months, the authority will also start releasing branding elements and marketing materials.
Dayler said the authority’s official public launch is expected to take place in May 2024, just as the farmers markets reopen for the season.
“It’s an amalgamation, really, of our work and the BIA’s work into a central authority,” he said. “These groups have invested a lot of time and energy into the area and what we’re doing is evolving into the next phase of work. The energy of those two entities is going to be the driving force in the next phase of reinvigorating our ByWard Market.”
When it comes to figuring out a marketing strategy, Dayler said community-building and trust are top of mind.
“When we talk about public markets, we instantly arrive at that connecting space, where people come together,” he said. “There’s a lot of shifting demographics, not only in Ottawa, but in every city across Canada. Over the last few years, we’ve worked with many great partners to be a welcoming space because that’s really what Ottawa is about, as the capital, but also as a city where people come to connect.”
Dayler said he and his team are working to expand cultural programming to reflect the diversity of the city and its newcomers. They’re also looking for new outreach opportunities.
“It’s about creating a space that’s comfortable and welcoming for all communities in Ottawa,” he said. “Now, that’s not easy to achieve. You have to build trust within these communities. You have to build support and be authentic. The Market is part of an ecosystem.”
The strategy also needs to account for some perspectives that the Market is unsafe.
“Safety and security is both a perceived and real concern for people,” he said. “It’s a reality across all cities in Canada. It’s important that we approach challenges of mental health, crime and drug issues with respect.”
Under city staff recommendations, the authority’s mandate includes “undertaking initiatives that improve community safety and well-being,” something local business owners have been calling for.
Dayler said the organization’s goal is to collaborate with the city and area partners to address concerns and have the resources needed to support individuals affected by multiple ongoing crises in the Market, including homelessness and addiction.
That includes a community liaison program, which will launch in 2024, to increase on-street support.
“We want to begin talking around one table,” he said. “Some of the issues we’re not going to solve on our own. We need to be a partner at the table in helping move solutions forward.”
As the summer season dwindles, Dayler said the team will spend the next few months focused on lining up administrative affairs and building up staff. By early spring, the plan is to start pushing out advertisements and radio campaigns in preparation for the official launch.
Dayler added that they’re also working to establish partnerships with groups that want to do programming in the area. He said the ultimate goal is for the Market’s new slate of vibrant events and activities to become the focal point of the marketing strategy.
“We want to be talking about the events, not the group that’s doing them. As we go forward, I hope that’s the real sign of our success, that you’re seeing more and more activities that make you want to come down and check things out,” he said. “There’s a lot of work ahead. We’re rolling up our sleeves and getting at it so we can deliver an exciting project to the city. We have a real opportunity over the next five years to put some good sweat into it and hopefully that work will pay off for the next 200 (years).”