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A Business Improvement Area (BIA) is a group of commercial property owners and tenants who collaborate with the municipality to develop a thriving and safe business district that attracts shoppers, diners, tourists, and new businesses. Working together as a BIA, local businesses benefit from a pooled resource capacity (funds and people) to actively improve the quality of life in their local neighbourhood and the Municipality as a whole. As a private-public partnership that supports community and economic development, a BIA has unique and specific connections with the municipality. BIAs in collaboration with the municipality oversee the improvement, beautification, and maintenance of municipally-owned land, buildings, and structures in the area beyond what is provided at the municipality's general expense; and promote the area as a business or shopping area.

The Downtown Kingston Business Improvement Area (BIA) is a not-for-profit organization representing more than 700 business and property owners located in the core commercial area of the City of Kingston. The organization is managed by an elected volunteer Board of Management. Committees and Advisory Working Groups help to ensure that the direction of the BIA is reflective of the entire membership. The BIA staff is made up of a group of professionals that are dedicated to the continued growth and prosperity of Downtown Kingston.

"The Downtown Kingston Business Improvement Area (BIA) cultivates and enhances downtown Kingston’s position as the region’s leading culinary, entertainment, shopping, and services destination while attracting more people to experience and contribute to our vibrant downtown community."

The Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) in Ontario are established and governed under the Municipal Act, 2001. According to the Act, the primary responsibilities of a BIA include:

  • Improving, beautifying, and maintaining the designated BIA area, including streets, sidewalks, and public spaces.
    Promoting the BIA area as a business and shopping district.
  • Developing and executing strategic plans for business recruitment, market studies and capital improvements.
  • Organizing and sponsoring events and festivals to attract visitors and encourage local economic growth.
    Collaborating with the municipality and other stakeholders to address issues affecting local businesses, such as parking, safety, and infrastructure.
  • Hosting neighbourhood festivals and events to increase visitor traffic, and add to the vibrant feel of Downtown spaces.
  • Promotion of the BIA as a business, employment, tourist or shopping area (business directories, festivals, advertising).
  • Advocacy on behalf of BIA members to influence policies and decisions that impact the local business environment. Acting as a unified voice, advocating on behalf of their members.
  • Safety, security and crime prevention initiatives.
  • Removing graffiti and posters, respecting building facades visible from the street.
  • Maintaining street and sidewalk cleanliness, capital improvements.
  • Collecting and managing a BIA levy from commercial property owners within the designated area to fund BIA activities.
  • Overall, BIAs aim to create a thriving and attractive business environment, fostering economic development and enhancing the overall experience for businesses, residents, and visitors within the designated area.

Who may benefit from a BIA?

  • Operators of businesses:
All businesses in the area, whether retail, professional, dining, entertainment, or finance, may benefit from the improved local atmosphere and ambience that a successful BIA helps to create. Improvements and activities may keep more local customers and attract more visitors. Members may benefit from cost savings as a result of better integration of capital funding and promotional activities.

  • Property owners:

BIA-initiated improvements and activities may help to create and sustain a more vibrant economic environment within an area, which may lead to increased demand for retail and office space, a decrease in commercial vacancy rates, and an increase in property values.


  • Neighbouring Communities:
A BIA can improve the quality of life in surrounding neighbourhoods by making physical improvements as well as providing a better atmosphere, more options for local shopping and professional services, job opportunities, cleanup and safety programmes, and community gatherings.

  • The greater community:
Fostering local economic development and revitalization in a community can provide new impetus for tourism and investment in the larger community. Increased business activity can benefit both the municipal and sales tax bases, as well as public services that benefit everyone. Fostering community engagement has the potential to strengthen and expand community interest, spirit, pride, and networks far beyond the boundaries of a BIA.

Common BIA-Related Questions

How is a BIA funded?

The municipality collects a levy from commercial property owners (usually derived from tenants) and provides it to the BIA. The cost is nominal in relation to the many benefits businesses can receive, because businesses collectively contribute to an organization that represents the entire business area and is accountable to each business. Businesses provide input to shape the budget and vote on the budget annually at the AGM and other membership meetings held.

To find out more about how the levy works in Downtown Kingston, and to see an example of how it is calculated Click Here


Benefits of a BIA

BIAs help forms a strong and distinct image for a municipality’s neighbourhood as its destination to eat, shop, work, and play. This effectively markets the area as a local destination, competing against e-commerce giants and malls, and tourism destinations.  The BIA is a ‘collective good’ model.

BIAs can be catalysts for civic improvement and significant contributors to the municipality’s economy and the quality of life in our neighbourhoods. In order to help local commercial areas create thriving, competitive and safe business areas, the municipality may offer programs to BIAs.


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