A Business Improvement Area (BIA) is an association of commercial property owners and tenants within a designated area who join together under the auspices of a volunteer Board of Management elected by the businesses in the designated area and appointed by City Council to:

  • oversee the improvement, beautification and maintenance of municipally-owned land, buildings and structures in the business improvement area beyond City standard levels provided at the expense of the municipality generally;
  • maintain business improvement area-initiated streetscaping capital assets within the business improvement area;
  • promote the business improvement area as a business, employment, tourist or shopping area;
  • offer graffiti and poster removal services respecting building facades visible from the street, to all member property owners who provide written consent, upon approval of the program by the general membership of the business improvement area;
  • undertake safety and security initiatives within the business improvement area;
  • undertake strategic planning necessary to address business improvement area issues; and
  • advocate on behalf of the interests of the business improvement area.

Follow this link for information on the Board governance structure for the BIA Boards of Management.

BIA Boards of Management contribute to the improvement, beautification and maintenance of business areas by coordinating local businesses and managing partnerships with the City to: enhance and promote commercial areas as safe, vibrant places to do business, unique destinations for tourists, and focal points for neighbourhood activity; contribute to Toronto’s image as culturally diverse, cosmopolitan and progressive; and to undertake projects to improve business areas.

The City currently has 78 geographically dispersed BIAs involving over 35,000 small businesses, the most BIAs worldwide.  Follow this link for more information on Toronto’s Business Improvement Areas (BIAs)

The Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) is a separate organization that coordinates communication, issues management and advocacy on matters of interest to all BIAs.

2014 Service Overview

The BIA Office in the Economic Development & Culture Division provides professional operational and administrative support to BIAs ensuring compliance with the Municipal Code and other relevant City policies.

The BIA Office develops and manages the BIA capital cost-share program.  These result in approximately 100 streetscape improvement projects per year with an annual value of approximately $5 million. These revitalization and street beautification initiatives are implemented at half the cost to the City through the 50% cost-share formula with BIAs, and are maintained by BIAs.

The BIA Office also administers the Commercial Façade Improvement Program. The City provides approximately $500,000 per year in grants to commercial property owners within BIAs across the City to upgrade the physical appearance of their buildings, each to a maximum of $10,000. These funds are matched by the BIAs. This grants program is administered to meet City priorities such as City beautification, accessibility standards and environmental sustainability.

2014 Operating Budget

The City collects levies from business owners in the designated business improvement area to cover BIA operating and capital budgets. These funds are collected by the City through the property tax billing process and all funds collected are remitted to the BIA, with 50% being remitted early in the year, prior to the City collecting the funds. This ensures necessary operating funds for the BIA at the beginning of the year. BIAs collectively levy approximately 35 million per year for commercial area improvements, marketing and promotion, and other economic development initiatives.

BIA budgets vary depending on the size of the BIA, the types of programs offered, and the types of streetscape improvement projects undertaken.  Also, some BIAs can function with a team of volunteers while other BIAs require paid staff to run day-to-day operations, and sometimes it is necessary for BIAs to contract skilled services for specific projects. The size of the BIA budget is largely a function of the assessment base in the area i.e. BIAs with large assessment bases are often able to levy more funds from its members at the same tax rate as a smaller BIA with smaller assessment base.

The City does not contribute funds to BIA operating budgets.