Westboro BIA works to maintain community connections amid intensification, construction

Westboro Village BIA
The Westboro Village BIA encompasses about 1.5 kilometres of Richmond Road. Photo provided

With traffic and construction becoming part of everyday life, the Westboro BIA is turning to familiar events and initiatives to keep the community connected to its businesses. 

The BIA stretches about 1.5 kilometres along Richmond Road from Island Park Drive to Golden Avenue, and McRae Avenue between Scott Street and Richmond Road, encompassing everything from the Barley Mow to Bushtukah.

BIA executive director Judy Lincoln said the approximately 300 businesses in the BIA are not exempt to the issues facing many of Ottawa’s other BIAs, including concerns around the economy, crime and lack of housing within the city.

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“(Crime) is not at the same level as the rest of the city, but we’re also not immune to it. Luckily, we can usually quickly support members and connect with the right services so that we’re all equipped to deal with any situations that may arise,” she explained. “We aren’t facing those things at the same rate as other neighbourhoods and I’m sure there are lots of reasons. But each community faces their own challenges and they just present in different ways.”

For Westboro, many of those challenges are the result of “really rapid evolution” and intensification in the neighbourhood, she said. 

“There has been a lot of new construction, lots of housing, and then more construction related to the infrastructure needed to support the new development,” explained Lincoln. “We’re watching as new buildings go up and then there needs to be support around that for the infrastructure. And it’s a challenging situation to live through.”

The neighbourhood is home to an active community, Lincoln said. Yoga and pilates studios, healthy dining, bike paths, outdoor equipment stores and activewear retailers attract “wellness-focused” shoppers and residents. 

The BIA also features physiotherapists, massage therapists, naturopaths and other services, as well as fine dining, retail and pubs and restaurants. A recent addition to the neighbourhood is Knix, a clothing and intimates retailer, which opened its only Ottawa store on Richmond Road last year, Lincoln said. 

A franchise location of COBS Bread Bakery also recently opened on Richmond, a Mary Brown’s Chicken storefront will be opening soon, and a new Sleep Country Canada store, the first to offer the acquired Silk & Snow line, is set to open next month. 

“At the end of the day, it means there will be more customers to support our businesses. But the neighbourhood is intensifying and it’s happening quickly,” said Lincoln. “Watching all that evolution in a rapid period of time, the concern for a lot of businesses is that, with too much construction, people will think it’s too busy to come down.”

When completed, the extension of the LRT will bring even more people to the neighbourhood. 

And the area is about to gain more residents. A six-storey mixed-use building is currently under construction on Winona Avenue, as well as a 25-storey, 264-unit apartment highrise on Scott Street and a seven-storey complex on Winston Avenue behind the Royal Canadian Legion on Richmond Road. 

The construction is in “pockets” rather than the whole area, Lincoln explained, but traffic has increased as LRT construction vehicles operate in the neighbourhood. The ongoing concern of limited parking can also be a deterrent, she added, but the BIA is committed to supporting businesses and encouraging people to visit.

“We try to encourage our members to focus on living through the construction. We say it’s like living in a house under renovation, which is hard, but we’ll come out the other end and have all these new neighbours.”

As the community strives to stay connected and get involved with its “new neighbours,” Lincoln said the BIA’s initiatives and campaigns are a great way to “invite the community out.”

Wickedly Westboro on Saturday will feature trick-or-treating with businesses, carved pumpkins and numerous “activity stations” along the street. While the event has been around for a decade, Lincoln said it evolves every year.

“It’s really a great way to bring a ton of activity,  invite the community in, encourage people to wander the length of Richmond Road and have some fun,” said Lincoln. “It’s a chance to get out and hopefully enjoy a beautiful day.”

The upcoming Light Up the Village event will also allow the community to come together for local charities, including the Westboro Food Bank, Cornerstone Housing for Women, and the Carlington Community Health Centre. 

As the BIA works to support its members, Lincoln said the priority is to listen to local businesses and keep them informed, as well as to be an effective advocate. 

“There are these urgent ‘now’ needs of current economic realities, so we work with them on that. But we also think ahead, because these projects will finish and then more will start. Let’s talk about it and dream about other opportunities.”

The BIA provides learning opportunities, training and other resources to members, but Lincoln also said there is power in “telling the stories” of Westboro businesses.

“Nothing is without its challenges and things are definitely challenging for members. It’s not easy being an entrepreneur and running a business,” said Lincoln. “There are concerns around inflation, the economy, the cost of goods … But that’s not unique to us.

“Nothing is easy, but we want to encourage members to ask for help when they need it, know we’re here to tell their story, and dream about what’s next.”

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