The Fleetwood BIA is getting its footing, for the second time in its short existence.
The business group’s creation was spearheaded in late 2015 by Rick Hart, a man so involved in the community he was referred to as “Mr. Fleetwood.”
But now, as Fleetwood BIA President Sandeep Gill says: “We’ve got a new direction, we have a strategy, we have a one-year plan, and we’re off the ground running.”
That’s not to say they have a wildly different vision for the community’s future than the late Hart.
“I think, for us longterm, we want to be in simple terms, where Rick Hart thought we should be: The advocate and the voice for Fleetwood,” said Gill, who works as a personal injury lawyer and also founded Keystone Law Group.
Top of mind for the BIA, straight out of the gate, is LRT or whatever rapid transit is ultimately selected for the Fraser Highway corridor to connect Surrey to Langley.
Even though the Mayors’ Council has voted to approve phase two of the regional transportation plan that would include the line running through Fleetwood, there is a concern that this phase could “die on the vine” at some point in time, Gill noted.
The group intends to write a letter to city hall, the Mayors’ Council and TransLink endorsing the project and pushing for it “not to be put on the back burner.”
It will be the BIA’s first foray into the debate.
“The idea is we need to get in front of this and we need to be the voice (of Fleetwood). We want everybody to come to us looking for the information and we want to co-host a number of different events around this type of discussion and dialogue,” said Gill.
But the group isn’t taking a stance on technology – at least, not yet.
“In terms of where we stand on the fence, whether it’s light rail or SkyTrain, it’s really not up to us,” said Gill. “It’s up to us to stay we stand for the project. For now, that’s going to be the stand that we take, knowing full well that there is going to be disruption. There is going to be some growing pains with this but on the back end of it, if you’ve seen what happened on the Millennium line, the Cambie line, all the development, it bodes well, big picture.
“Now some people won’t survive it, we know that, it will be a real challenge,” he added.
“One of the things that we’re going to be advocating in the business area is to do the work in off-hours, not during commuter hours or business hours,” said Gill. “We were told part of the process is they’ve got to rip up all the old piping, build new stuff and rip up the old stuff, so that’s going to be one of the more time consuming sides of the project. ”
Where the stops are located is also of interest to the BIA. At this point, it looks like stops will be placed on Fraser Highway at 152nd, 160th and 166th Streets, with others being considered, such as at 156th Street and at 88th Avenue.
“So what we’d like to do as the BIA is also be involved in creating the brand of the stop. We want people to know they’re in Fleetwood,” said Barbour.
The idea is to have a “gateway” for those entering the area. “When you’re coming in, what do you see?” Barbour continued. “Whether it’s the big gates like in Jurassic Park or big totem poles, something distinctive.”
The group’s leaders agreed they’ve heard many comments from people who are “misinformed or uninformed” about LRT and they hope to help educate the public through their work and be the go-to place for information for locals.
But of course, LRT isn’t the only focus of the business group.
The BIA’s 2018 Strategic Plan outlines five key focuses this year: member engagement; events; safety and security; area enhancement; and partnerships.
“We’re creating a marketing platform to help drive new customers into the market,” he said, explaining the BIA has set up a full-page monthly spread in the Now-Leader that includes LRT updates, event announcements, as well as deals (that will also be available on a website called fleetwooddeals.com) for time-sensitive offers in the area.
Barbour noted last Christmas, the Big Rigs for Kids event drove through Fleetwood for the first time, and they’re evaluating if that will return this year.
“We’re also going to be supporting local events,” he said, “such as the chili cook-off at Fresh St. Market in April.”
While they don’t have a large event of their own yet, the group is looking to partner in Fleetwood Days and other events around the area.
Nighttime movies screened in Fleetwood Park are also being considered.
Meanwhile, the group hired students to do a safety audit in 2017, the results of which haven’t been released, in an effort to understand the issues, and be able to identify trends over years, said Barbour.
“Since the liquor store came in, for example, there’s been more unsavoury people and their crime has gone up, shoplifting has gone up….. In terms of what can we do about that, well some of the businesses have cameras,” he said. “Most are internal, not external, but with the IRIS program, businesses can register with RCMP who would have access to footage should there be an incident, and hopefully either deter crime or catch culprits, and if they’re prolific, have the evidence to put them away for a longer amount of time. So one of the initiatives around that is to get out to the community and identify the challenged areas, find out whether they have cameras in place.
“There’s always going to be the petty theft, there’s always going to be property crime and vandalism but in terms of a BIA, some BIAs have a large portion of their budget go to crime and safety, but we’re not there yet,” he said.
“We can relocate those dollars into preventative areas, like cameras. As we grow, looking the 10 years out, that could change dramatically and we have to be in front of that.”
There is talk of setting up a hotline for businesses to report crime, as well.
When it comes to area enhancement, Barbour said the BIA’s involvement could range from banners to street lights to decorations to graffiti removal, and even helping businesses obtain city grants when building exteriors are a bit run down.
A mural is also being considered.
Last but not least among the BIA’s initiatives for 2018, Barbour said, is creating partnerships with businesses, the community, the city and media. They’re also looking for more board members to join.
BIA vice-president Bryn McIntosh said it’s all in an effort to make Fleetwood more than a community you drive through.
“The primary drive is to get people to stop,” said McIntosh, who is business development manager for Prospera Credit Union.
“When I think out 10 years, and I think of Fleetwood, well why can’t it be the ideal destination for people to live, work and play right here? Why aren’t more people coming here? It’s highly accessible, it’s got major transportation routes close by. There are 66,000 residents in the Fleetwood catchment. The population is almost the size of Maple Ridge, in Fleetwood alone.”
The Fleetwood BIA represents roughly 350 businesses in the Fleetwood area, along the Fraser Highway corridor between 152nd to 164th Streets.