What is a Business Improvement Area (BIA)?
A BIA is a “made-in-Ontario” innovation that allows local businesses and commercial property owners and tenants to join together and, with the support of the municipality, to organize, finance, and carry out physical improvements and promote economic development in their district. BIAs are established by a municipality using the specific business improvement area provisions in the Municipal Act, 2001 (section 204) and are governed by a board of management. Once a BIA is approved by municipal council, businesses within its boundaries become members and pay a BIA levy along with their annual property taxes. Ottawa currently has 18 BIAs located in urban, suburban, and rural areas.
How is a BIA formed?
The request to form a BIA does not typically come from the municipality, but rather it is local businesses and property owners that come together and determine the need for a BIA to better serve their business interests. Key steps and early stages of establishing a BIA include:
- Developing a business case
- Communicating with interested property and business owners
- Establishing a steering committee
- Proposing a physical boundary
- Formalizing a request to the municipality to create a BIA
The City of Ottawa offers a BIA Formation and Expansion Funding Program for business groups who have formed a Steering Committee and can provide the City of Ottawa with evidence of significant property and business owner interest in forming a BIA for their commercial district. Business groups interested in forming a BIA should communicate their intentions to their local City Councillor(s). Prospective business groups can contact Mike.Bureau5@ottawa.ca for program Terms and Conditions and an Application Form.
What are the benefits of forming a BIA and how does the levy work?
The purpose of a BIA is to improve, beautify, and maintain public lands and buildings within the BIA boundary beyond the services already provided by the municipality. BIAs promote the area as a business and shopping district to attract residents and visitors. BIAs also work to identify and implement actions to support economic development and business growth and attract new businesses to the area.
The City of Ottawa has different property tax classes and rates assigned to each property class. BIA budgets, including the annual levy rate, are approved by the individual BIA Board of Management. Multiple factors go into the BIA levy including total assessment value of the entire BIA boundary, individual property assessment value, tax ratios, tax rates, and the annual BIA budget. Here is an example of a BIA levy amount calculation (NOTE: general calculation and not 100% accurate):
- Individual property assessment is $100,000.00
- The approved BIA levy rate for the property’s tax class is 0.1%
- The BIA levy amount (individual property contribution to BIA) is $100,000.00 x 0.001 = $100.00
Below are the key steps to funding a BIA:
- BIA Board of Management prepares an annual budget
- BIA members approve the annual budget by vote at the Annual General Meeting
- City Council approves the annual budget
- BIA tax rate is calculated to produce levy amount required to fund the annual budget
- BIA levy is collected by the municipality via BIA member property tax bill and transferred to the BIA
- BIA begins delivering services and programs for their members
City of Ottawa - BIA Funding Programs
Anti-Graffiti Funding Program
This program is available to all eligible BIAs within the City of Ottawa as an annual renewable contribution. The purpose of these funding contributions is to support BIAs and member businesses in adhering to the Graffiti Management By-law 2008-01, requiring the expedient removal of graffiti from all property within the City of Ottawa. The contribution may support graffiti removal and prevention activities in support of BIA members. For more information on graffiti management, please visit ottawa.ca.
Formation and Expansion Funding Program
The BIA Formation & Expansion Funding Program provides funding grants to business groups that have expressed a formal interest to the City of Ottawa to create a Business Improvement Area (BIA) for their commercial district, or to existing BIAs wishing to expand their area boundary.
Mural and Architectural Design Feature Funding Program
This program supports BIAs in promoting their area as a vibrant commercial district by providing opportunities to develop and install building murals and other architectural design features or streetscape renewal elements. The focus of the program is primarily area beautification and visitor attraction – BIAs are challenged to collaborate with artists and other creators to develop “WOW” moments to be experienced and enjoyed by tourists, residents, and customers.
Research Funding Program
This program supports BIAs in executing research projects designed to enhance the economic vitality and competitiveness of the BIA. The BIA must demonstrate how the research project will support the organization’s objectives and benefit its members.
Current BIAs in Ottawa and contacts
Business Improvement Areas (BIA) District Location Plan
Open data map
The Barrhaven Business Improvement Area represents over 540 businesses. It was created in 2006 to help local businesses succeed by; branding and marketing Barrhaven as a premiere commercial district, providing support and assistance to local businesses, sponsoring local events, and advocating for smart local growth and development.
The Bells Corners Business Improvement Area mission is to champion the business success of their members by promoting Bells Corners as a vibrant and healthy commercial, retail, residential and entertainment district and attracting more people to live, shop, work and gather. The volunteer BIA Board of Directors is united under a common vision: to ensure that the Bells Corners community grows, prospers and succeeds as a vibrant, positive area.
Carp Road Corridor
The Carp Road Corridor Business Improvement Area is one of Ottawa’s largest light industry business park. The BIA works with over 370 business and property owner members to improve business opportunities and attract new business members to the area.
The Carp Village Business Improvement Area promotes an environment that supports innovation and growth for Carp-based businesses.
The Centretown Business Improvement Area is a 15-block shopping district and community that strives to make the area cleaner, safer and more vibrant. The Centretown BIA is leading a new spirit of cooperation among property owners, businesses and the community by providing a range of programs including maintenance, marketing, economic vitality and physical improvements.
The Downtown Rideau Business Improvement Area positions the district as a high street destination for shopping, dining and culture under the brand “Ottawa’s Fashion, Arts & Theatre District”. The BIA manages a number of programs and promotions to support its brand and represents its member’s interests through advocacy and outreach.
The Glebe Business Improvement Area’s mission is to help the Glebe thrive. The BIA represents 370 businesses and works hard to champion the neighbourhood, support its distinctive businesses and position the Glebe as a place to live, shop, visit and do business.
Heart of Orléans
The Heart of Orléans Business Improvement Area represents over 350 businesses in the Heart of Orléans district in Orléans. The BIA supports economic development by advocating on behalf of their members, promoting the area as a business district, and making streetscape improvements.
The Kanata Central Business Improvement Area represents and advocates for the companies located in Commons, Centrum and Signature Centre.
The Kanata North Business Association is committed to representing and advocating for the over 500 member companies located in the area. As part of Ottawa’s economic development future and a renowned hub of technology and innovation, the Kanata North business area is a robust and vital region committed to fostering even greater success for its constituent companies.
The Manotick Business Improvement Area promotes the village of Manotick as a shopping, dining and historical destination to attract customers, commercial tenants and visitors.
The Preston Street Business Improvement Area is very active in one of Ottawa’s most vibrant communities. Their mandate is to improve, promote and undertake projects that will result in a stronger and more competitive commercial main street or business district.
Somerset Street Chinatown
The Somerset Street Chinatown Business Improvement Area spans 8 city blocks on Somerset Street West from Bay Street to Preston Street. Members of the BIA consist of more than 120 property owners and business owners in the area.
The primary goal of the Somerset Village Business Improvement Area is to maintain and enhance the Somerset Village streetscape so customers of local businesses and restaurants will have an enjoyable and unique neighbourhood experience.
Ivan Gedz, Chair
The Sparks Street Business Improvement Area is proud to be one of the most vibrant commercial districts in Ottawa. Sparks Street BIA business and property owners have joined together to improve, promote and undertake projects that create a stronger and more competitive commercial district.
The Vanier Business Improvement Area is a not-for-profit organization representing over 466 property and business owners across 3 main streets: Beechwood Avenue, Montréal Road and McArthur Avenue. Their mission is to represent, enhance and promote a prosperous business area along these diverse, vibrant and historic main streets.
The Wellington West Business Improvement Area is a not-for-profit local board that exists to support and strengthen the local business environment along the whole length of Wellington Street West, and in the surrounding neighbourhoods of Hintonburg and Wellington Village.
Westboro Village is one of Ottawa’s unique and diverse neighbourhoods. You will enjoy tree-lined streets, shop in one-of-a-kind boutiques and popular stores, spend time in welcoming outdoor spaces, dine at Ottawa’s trendiest spots and enjoy the natural beauty of Westboro Beach and the scenic views of Gatineau Hills.
To request further details of BIAs, please contact:
Economic Development Officer
613-580-2424, ext. 22441
- Boards of Management for Business Improvement Areas (By-law No. 2021-255)
- City of Ottawa – BIA Governance report (June 9, 2021)
- City of Ottawa - Code of Conduct for Members of Local Boards (By-law No. 2018-399)
- Ottawa Coalition of BIAs (OCOBIA)
- Ontario Municipal Act (section 204)
- Province of Ontario – BIA Handbook
- Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA)