Business Improvement Associations first emerged in 1970 – in Toronto actually – as well as in Los Angeles.
In the late 1960’s, Toronto’s inner city was struggling with suburban sprawl as commuting cars began to fill up once vital commercial streets. A few volunteer merchant associations existed but they were not very successful, since budgets tended to be minimal. Street-front commercial areas were suffering as malls were increasing in popularity.
Bloor Street West merchants got together to look into how they could compete with “the mall.” They found that all mall tenants were required to contribute Common Area Maintenance Fees, which were used for promotions to draw in customers. They then worked with City of Toronto to develop a special BIA levy – so that individual merchants could pool their resources in a similar way and create effective marketing programs.