A Historical Assessment of the World’s First Business Improvement Area (BIA): The Case of Toronto's Bloor West Village

  • Melissa Charenko University of Wisconsin-Madison


Over 60,000 Business Improvement Areas (BIAs)1 exist worldwide. Generally, BIAs seek to revitalize their shopping districts, fi nance services, and improve and promote their area. Th e fi rst BIA started in Toronto’s Bloor West Village in 1970 and its model is now employed worldwide. Despite the global popularity of BIAs, there is controversy about what they can achieve. Some boosters argue that BIAs can revitalize urban streetscapes and allow small retailers to compete with urban malls. Opponents disagree and allege that BIAs are an unnecessary burden on small businesses because they achieve few tangible results. Amidst this controversy, this paper analyzes the eff ects of longest-running BIA to help resolve some of these questions. After offering a history of the creation of the Bloor West Village BIA, this paper assesses the impact of the Bloor West Village BIA over a 35 year period and suggests some of the limitations of long-term studies of BIAs.

Author Biography

Melissa Charenko, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Department of the History of Science