Scattered Governance: A Typology for Toronto’s Business Improvement Areas
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Business Improvement Areas (BIAs)—or Business Improvement Districts as they are known in the United States—are self-taxing local bodies that play an important role in urban governance. Toronto, which was the location of the first BIA in the world, has one of the highest number of BIAs in North America, yet little is known about how these bodies differ across the city. Using a mixed methodological approach that includes geographic information system mapping, quantitative analysis, and semi-structured interview data, this chapter addresses this gap in knowledge by offering a typology of Toronto BIAs, looking at the metrics of size, walkability/transit score, budgets, and year of formation. The study concludes that there are four kinds of BIAs in Toronto scattered unevenly across the city: Big City Builders, Former Local Stewards, Big Industrial Powerhouses, and Emerging Small Centres. The paper sets out the unique attributes of each kind of BIA and some preliminary conclusions as to how Toronto’s BIA types differ from those in other jurisdictions and points at the explosive creation of Emerging Small Centres BIAs following Toronto’s amalgamation.
I am enormously indebted to Jeff Allen, a phenomenal emerging scholar who provided tremendous expertise in the map-making and data crunching contained in this paper. I am also deeply grateful to Ronit Levine-Schnur and the brilliant participants of the Measuring the Effectiveness of Real Estate Regulation Workshop held at the Gazit-Globe Real Estate Institute at IDC Herzliya in June 2017 for their insights and feedback. Thanks also to the Visiting Scholars programme at the Center for the Study of Law and Society at the University of California, Berkeley, who provided an inspiring home for me as I crafted the paper. All errors and omissions are my own.
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