Two years ago, the first mural was painted in what’s become referred to as the “mural alley” just east of King George Boulevard in Newton, in an effort to “activate” the space.
Eight murals later, the Newton BIA is readying to host its first large event in the space.
BIA director Philip Aguirre was all smiles as he excitedly spoke about what’s planned for the inaugural “Newt Fest.”
The event, on Saturday, July 27, will have games, food, a beer garden, a live DJ, dance area, and a whole lot of “cool” furniture such as beach chairs and loungers throughout the colourful alley.
It will also serve as a launch event to an envisioned BIA-led “entrepreneurial hub” that would help springboard local residents into the business scene. Through the project, the BIA hopes to activate vacant or underutilized commercial space in the area to encourage “youth, newcomers and others to start mission-driven ventures that benefit the Newton community.”
At “NewtFest,” more than 10 selected entrepreneurs will be setting up booths at the event to showcase their wares.
The hub, Aguirre said, “is going ahead full steam.”
After this initial event, a “soft launch” is planned in the fall that involves “inviting a smaller amount of entrepreneurs into the Newton BIA office to get the project going. Then we’re hoping by spring of 2020 to relocate to a larger commercial space to have up to 30 entrepreneurs in the hub.”
“There could be a tiered approach for those entrepreneurs,” Aguirre explained. “Some might only need monthly check-ins, some might need weekly, some daily. Some will need a permanent space, some will need their own office. We’d love to have our own little retail storefront where they can rotate through, have three-month stints where they sell their products in that retail space.”
This fall, Aguirre said a business plan period is going to “really flush out all of those pieces.”
“It’s a long time coming,” he said of the project. “We’ve been working on improving Newton for a long time. It’s been five years for the BIA now. This project started four years ago, and to get to where we are today, to make real change, I’m proud. I’m proud that we’ve reached today.”
Equally enthusiastic about the July 27 event are Albert Lam and Wilco van Bellem with Dunefield Consulting, a company that “contributes to sustainable, vibrant and prosperous communities” that has partnered with the BIA in holding the first NewtFest.
“The whole point of this event is to make sure the alleyway is activated,” said Lam, “so people will come and browse and have the opportunity to talk to a lot of the entrepreneurs that we’re showcasing. The things that we’re adding to this to make it a really enjoyable experience is we actually have food elements on either end, with a beer garden, so they’re anchors. The intention is that people can linger and spend time here, get to know the people.”
Bellem said some young artists will be showcased at NewtFest who have “a great repertoire of art but hasn’t been really exposed yet, they’re going to bring it here and show people how they make it.”
“It’s nice that this is not a top-down initiative. It’s really coming from the community,” Bellem said of the hub project. “I think we’re going to build up momentum and enthusiasm, and can proudly say this was made in Newton.”
NewtFest is set for Saturday, July 27 from 4 to 10 p.m., at the “mural laneway” – 13655 72nd Ave.
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