Ottawa’s downtown BIAs work to resolve border dispute

Two sister groups are getting territorial about downtown commercial districts.

Like siblings dividing up a bedroom, the ByWard Market BIA and the Downtown Rideau BIA – who share a border along George Street – are hashing out who should ultimately control George and some land along King Edward Avenue.

Ottawa city councillors are the parents in this situation, who must rule whether the Downtown Rideau BIA’s proposed expansion is fair to market businesses.

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The issue came to the city’s finance and economic development committee Tuesday.

While the proposed expansion carried, the two groups now have until March 23 to come up with a compromise that works for everyone.

The two councillors affected – Mathieu Fleury and Catherine McKenney – also have to come to agreeable terms.

McKenney said she doesn’t support the Downtown Rideau BIA’s western expansion because it threatens the Spark Street BIA across the street.

“I don’t see any real rationale for why a BIA would jump the canal,” she said.

Right now, the George Street boundary is haphazard: some businesses are part of the market BIA, and some, like Chapters and Hudson’s Bay, are part of Downtown Rideau.

That’s confusing for visitors who see flags for the Downtown Rideau BIA along George, which most people consider part of the market.

“We advertise that we’re in the ByWard Market,” said Stephen Monuk, owner of The Drink lounge and co-chair of the ByWard Market board.

Downtown Rideau’s expanded boundary would capture Rideau Street east to Cummings Bridge, King Edward Avenue north to York Street and the National Arts Centre and Bytown Museum west of the canal.

Jasna Jennings, executive director of the ByWard Market BIA, said she has two problems with this: one, that the King Edward expansion eats into the market’s only hope to increase its business base, and, two, that the haphazard George Street border should have been addressed in the new boundary.

“At the very beginning of the process we were told that there would be an opportunity to review the George Street piecemeal boundary,” Jennings said.

Jennings said the BIAs have “no animosity.” They met immediately after committee, and will work with city staff to find a solution before city council meets later this month.

This article originally appeared on on March 1.

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