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The ByWard Market District Authority – A new governance to bring cohesion to the district

Byward Market District Authority logo

The ByWard Market is one of Ottawa’s most valuable neighborhoods in history and heritage.

A nostalgic feeling has been establishing itself over time from when the stalls of the oldest public market were full of fresh produce and the district was safer.

Regrettably, the same could not be said today as modernization took over our eating and socialization habits.

The difficult economic climate fed by the housing, mental health, opioid, and healthcare crises, just to name a few, has exacerbated the problem.

The ByWard Market lost cohesiveness in its diverse community which is essential to stay resilient throughout the years and to be able to face those crises.

Identification of improvement areas

As the status quo is not sustainable any longer, the City of Ottawa established the ByWard Market Strategic Initiative Working Group.

This group identified a misalignment in strategic objectives between the organizations looking over the district. This misalignment did not allow the district to be operated with the capacity that its heritage requires.

To address this and other jurisdictional issues, the working group concluded that a new governance structure was required: the ByWard Market District Authority (BMDA).

The mandate of the BMDA ensures that the shared community asset, which benefits from its commercial, residential, heritage, and public market profile, is positioned as the City’s premier visitor destination and experience.

First, the BMDA is responsible for the placekeeping and placemaking of the public space within its operational boundaries. For example, this includes the implementation of pageantry and beautification programs in an effort to align with the public realm plan.

Secondly, the BMDA is being held accountable for the economic diversification and resilience of the district, which for example translates into the creation of a Business Advisory Committee (BAC).

Third, the BMDA is also involved in community safety and well-being initiatives with various stakeholders to address the concerns regarding safety and security in the district.

Implementation of recommendations from the working group

The first step of establishing the BMDA was to recruit five inaugural members for its Board of Directors. Then, as has been promoted in OBJ, the Board is in the process of recruiting experienced individuals capable of giving sound and critical strategic advice to help the BMDA achieve its ambitions.

The next focus will be on setting to task in defining and advocating on issues facing the business community. This work will be spearheaded by the Business Advisory Committee. This committee is advisory in nature and helps create a conduit between the business community and the BMDA, as a BIA is mandated to be. The members are representatives of small businesses within the ByWard Market District.

What to expect?

As the new year unfolds, the BMDA will be fully operational, and it will allow the organization to undertake its expanded mandate. We can expect a broad oversight of area economic diversification and resilience, placekeeping, placemaking, community safety and well-being, advocacy, and fundraising.

The team is highly motivated to contribute to the revitalization of this important district!

If you have any questions related to the BMDA or the BAC, feel free to contact me at

Jeanne Matthiss is the manager of business integration at the ByWard Market District Authority.