Downtown Vancouver businesses "grateful" for storefront security financial relief

Jan 10 2023, 7:58 pm

There has been significant interest from businesses in downtown Vancouver to be on the receiving end of a “Storefront Security Grant” offered by Downtown Van, also known as the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.

The application window began in late October 2022 and is set to close at the end of February 2023. Businesses within the jurisdiction of this business improvement association (BIA) can have up to 50% of the cost to repair and restore storefront damages and perform preventative work.

This includes the cost of broken windows, doors, and locks, as well as high-level graffiti removal, anti-graffiti coating, and the installation of security cameras, shutters, and gates. The grant is limited to up to $5,000 per recipient.

Many storefront-based businesses in and around downtown Vancouver have been incurring thousands of dollars in unexpected costs due to repeat vandalism, especially broken glass and graffiti. Some businesses previously told Daily Hive Urbanized they face steep insurance premium increases if they pursue a claim, and certain types of vandalism, such as glass damage, are no longer covered. Such costs can be particularly very challenging to absorb for small businesses, which are often owned and operated by families.

More than two months after the grant application intake began, Jane Talbot, the interim president and CEO of Downtown Van, told Daily Hive Urbanized her BIA has received 58 applications. Of this figure, 28 businesses have received approval.

The 30 businesses that have not received are located outside of the BIA’s jurisdiction. Other than Downtown Van, which is the largest BIA within the downtown Vancouver peninsula and mainly centred within the Central Business District, there are a handful of other separate BIAs within the city centre that specifically serve Robson Street, the West End, Yaletown, Gastown, and Chinatown.

“While it’s unfortunate to need a program like the Storefront Security Grant, Downtown Vancouver businesses have been incredibly grateful to receive some financial relief,” said Talbot. “The businesses that were not approved are unfortunately outside of our district lines.”

Of the 28 applications approved to date, 12 businesses have been awarded a combined total of about $50,300. While the remaining 16 businesses have been approved, her team is awaiting further project details before issuing any funds.

The Storefront Security Grant is a first-of-its-kind program for a BIA in Vancouver, and the unprecedented initiative speaks volumes to the challenges of operating a storefront business in the city.

“We understand that public safety, vandalism, and shoplifting are still prevalent concerns for our members, and therefore Downtown Van has implemented extra measures to support these issues,” she continued.

“This includes increasing staffing for our Safety Ambassadors and Downtown Clean Team, continuing to have conversations with the Vancouver Police Department and City of Vancouver, supporting any enhanced programs or initiatives, and collecting internal data that helps to spotlight problematic areas in the downtown core.”

For the 2023/2024 fiscal year, Downtown Van will have a budget of about $6.5 million, including approximately $1.7 million for its Downtown Ambassadors and Clean Team and $780,000 for public spaces and placemaking.

BIAs in Vancouver’s central areas are increasingly spending a larger portion of their budget on mitigating the issues that stem from the worsening homelessness, mental health, and opioids addictions crisis. For instance, Vancouver Chinatown Business Improvement Association spends at least 50% of their budget on providing supplemental private security for their area’s businesses, while about 30% of the budget of the Commercial Drive Business Improvement Association’s budget goes towards cleaning public spaces, particularly in and around the SkyTrain hub.

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