HUNTSVILLE - Thirty five years ago local business and property owners in the downtown core joined together with the town to start the Downtown Huntsville Business Improvement Area .
The concept of Business Improvement Areas was relatively new at this point, and arose from a need to restore downtowns as viable retail centres. At this time, many downtowns were facing high vacancy rates due to the influx of malls. Business Improvement Areas are associations of local business people and property owners who strive to work in partnership with the municipality to enhance their business area.
Today, the businesses in downtown Huntsville continue working together to make the downtown a strong economic centre in the community with focus areas of beautification, marketing, promotional campaigns, street festivals and events. Funding for the BIA is principally derived from an extra tax levy applied to landowners within our downtown BIA boundaries. Since the BIA program is paid for by the building owners from within the BIA limits, with a volunteer board of management representing downtown building and business interests, one could think of it as a self-help program.
The BIA is regularly holding various events to create interesting downtown adventures and last year was no exception. The BIA’s Group of Seven Outdoor Gallery saw growth with another community mural last year. And 2012 saw an influx of new businesses to the BIA, as downtown vacancies were quick to fill and the year ended with a very low vacancy level. We welcomed Incarnations Floral, Interior, Event Design at 8 Brunel Road, Bo’s Authentic Thai Cuisine at 79 Main Street East, Harvey Kalles Real Estate at 93 Main Street East, and 3 Gals and a Quilt at 15 Main Street East.
As we move into the future, the BIA continues with its mandate to serve its members who want a vibrant, accessible and safe commercial, shopping and entertainment climate in downtown Huntsville, with a wide variety of offerings. We will continue to support our members and their customers by improving the area, and helping to create a reason for visitors to come downtown. We are pleased to see the success of the two-hour free parking limit in downtown and the numbers of shoppers expressing their gratitude and appreciation for the “free” parking. We are proud that the downtown is more than a shopping district. It is an active community and an agglomeration of residential, commercial, and recreational activities for the whole town to experience. We know at the BIA, that without the support of the local community, cottagers, and visitors our downtown cannot survive.
Overall, 2012 was a busy year for the BIA. Our annual events, which include the Midnight Madness, Summer Sidewalk Sale, Shades of Autumn Car Show, Girlfriends’ Getaway Weekend, Scarecrow Festival and Tiny Tots Halloween Parade, will make return appearances. Our efforts to work with other organizations to bring events to the downtown will also continue to thrive. Events such as the return of Dock Fest and the Huntsville Festival of the Arts Nuit Blanche North, the Farmers Market, Music at Noon and En plein Air. The Group of Seven Community Mural festival will be back again in 2013. If you have not had the opportunity to paint in one of our successful community murals, you’ll get a chance during the Mural Festival. We have already welcomed some new businesses in 2012. Plus there will be some other surprises awaiting you downtown this year.
So don’t wait to come downtown. Downtown is alive all year long. You can enjoy our friendly shops and services, our Group of Seven Outdoor Gallery, River Mill Park, shows at our downtown theatres, and more year round.