It’s the late 1970s, several local community-minded business owners in the Riverside neighbourhood, along Queen Street East near Broadview Avenue in Toronto, had been sitting and planning around a kitchen table on many a late night. Among them was Albert Edelstein, owner of Edelstein Jewellers and Watch Makers and Jack Korman, owner of Corby’s men’s clothing store, along with a handful of others.
Mitch Korman, Jack Korman’s son and long time owner of Korman and Co. Lawyers, has been Riverside BIA’s Chair since 2005. His father Jack Korman, who passed away in April 2009, was one of the founding members of the BIA, which was the Queen-Broadview Village BIA prior to being renamed the Riverside BIA (in 2004).
Mitch often speaks of his father being the motivational force in his own work with the BIA – “My first experience in the neighbourhood was working in my dad’s clothing store. I started there when I was 10 and every duty possible, I did it.” “I remember late night meetings in my house discussing the BIA. Even after (my dad) retired, he continued with the BIA because he had so much passion for the neighbourhood.”
There the original founders of this Business Improvement Area – the 12th formed in the city of Toronto and one of the first in the world – created it as a labour of love for the community and out of a real need to collectively improve the marketing, programming and streetscape of the area.
Forming a BIA in Toronto is not an easy task, it requires at least a full year’s work of advocating, meeting, and convincing every existing business and property owner to buy into the idea and agree to pay a levy on commercial property taxes. Then, the formal City of Toronto process must be followed to create and adopt a bylaw for that new BIA by the City Council. The BIA then becomes a Board of the City. This was indeed done and signed on July 21, 1980 by then Mayor John Sewell. Even today, on the 50th anniversary of BIAs in the world, there are about 90 in Toronto itself which attests to the level of commitment needed to form one.
Those countless nights sitting around the kitchen table in Riverside were out of desire to create an association of business and property owners who, for 40 years now have been working together to “make direct investments to improve business as a group” by putting budget and effort together toward “collective promotion” as well as “joint business-community festivals” and “street improvements, making the area someplace proud to do business and attractive to shop, dine and use services.” (quotes taken directly from the BIA’s early Board of Directors Meeting Minutes)
This was where the Riverside BIA began, as the Queen-Broadview Village BIA in 1980 and before long the rewards would start coming in from these hard-working community builders.