Kensington Business Improvement Area (BIA)
Kensington is an inner-city shopping district located in Calgary, Alberta. Our centrally located streets are ultra pedestrian-friendly. Walk across the Louise Bridge from downtown, ride along the bike path, or use our Sunnyside LRT station and several bus stops to access our 270+ businesses.
The Kensington Business Improvement Area (BIA) is responsible for the beautification, event planning and marketing of the shopping district and is financed through a portion of business taxes from our member businesses. The BIA role, as defined by the City of Calgary, is to:
- Enhance the economic development of an area through promotion and marketing.
- Improve the physical environment of public spaces in commercial areas.
- Develop, improve and maintain public parking.
- Work collaboratively with The City in delivery of municipal services in their zones.
- Advocate for policies and practices that support economic vitality in their zones.
Learn more about BIAs through the Business Improvement Toolkit
developed by the City of Calgary with extensive support by the Kensington BIA.
What are we currently working on for Kensington? We’re glad you asked!
Our current Strategic Plan focuses on:
- Branding and marketing initiatives
- Events planning
- Membership engagement
- Development of new revenue streams
- City Liaison and City stakeholder participation on several committees
- Website expansion and new technology implementation
- Society set-up
- Municipal Government Act (MGA) stakeholder
- Landlord Engagement and Retail Curation
- Public Realm (streetscape)
- Grant applications
- Art installations
- 3rd Avenue streetscape funding search
- Plaza public realm funding search
- Parking changes and initiatives
- Bike corrals negotiation with City
- Way-finding signage opportunities and development
What is within our mandate?
We help maintain the public realm through clean and safe work, we do events/activations to encourage people to come to Kensington, we promote Kensington on traditional and social media, and we support our member businesses.
What do your levy dollars pay for annually?
- An executive director who has been with us for 20 years.
- An office.
- Additional contract staff including social media and events people, a handyman, a bookkeeper and an auditor.
- Organizing activations like fire pits, weekend music, Christmas in Kensington, Late Night Shopping, Chinook Blast.
- Beautification through murals, art projects, umbrellas in the plaza trees, giant K and Kensington Heart Instagram installations, surprise and delight short term projects like balloon activations.
- Installation and maintenance of lights in trees and on streetlight poles wherever we have access to power
- Pageantry banners on our streetlight poles (changed 4 times a year for cleaning).
Additional long term annual funding and support our ED has negotiated for Kensington:
- 15 years of $26,000 worth of annual additional sidewalk cleaning, litter pick and garbage control as needed.
- A long term Shop Local campaign to support small businesses that had been running since 2018.
- Surplus Parking Revenue – Our Executive Director was the first BIA ED in North America to get a City Council to agree to spend $4.5M in surplus parking revenue to replace the public realm in a BIA in 2014. We won a national and an international award for this work. The sidewalks, tree wells, streetlights and street furniture were replaced in 2014-2015.
- $500,000 worth of trees to replace dead and unhealthy trees as part of the public realm work in 2014-2015.
- $1M worth of City work to replace our traffic intersection poles as part of the public realm work in 2014-2015.
- Our ED worked with City Parking Issue Strategists and three other BIA EDs to negotiate that a portion of surplus parking revenue be shared annually with BIAs with paid parking. The amount varies depending on the amount of the total surplus but is calculated using the specific amount of parking paid for within the Kensington BIAs. Our current fund stands at $63, 717. This fund can only be used for public realm costs such as new pageantry banners every 3-4 vears, and lights in trees and on streetlight poles.
- $1.5M to update our public plaza on Kensington Road. Design work is close to complete. Construction will begin spring 2023. Five communities out of 178 were considered for about $4M worth of funding. I was on the advisory board and two sub committees of the Established Areas Growth and Change Committees which evaluated the 178 communities on a variety of metrics in order to make a date based decision about where to spend the funds. Obviously with 178 communities collecting relevant data was a challenge for administration. I collected all the data for Kensington, historical information from being a stakeholder on the ARP, commitments made by the City over the years, and ongoing market interest and built a case for administration as to why Kensington should get funding. ‘Investment’ of the BIA was an estimated three months’ worth of my time (approx 360 hours) over two years and return on that ‘investment’ is $1.5M
Help for member businesses during the pandemic:
- As Chair of the umbrella organization of Calgary BIAs, Co-founder and Co-Chair of the first provincial organization of Alberta BIAs and a founding member of the first national organization of Canadian BIA our ED helped advocate for City, provincial and federal help for businesses including changes to the wage benefits, rent subsidy eligibility, re-opening grants, digital help for businesses transitioning to on line sales.
- Member of the Business Support Sector Task Force which worked with City administration and Council to help businesses throughout the pandemic.
- Member of the Business Advisory Council that reports directly to Council on ways to support small businesses.
- Advocacy for City support for outdoor patios.
- Advocacy for the City to pay the $4.3M levy for all 15 BIA’s member businesses for 2021.
- Advocacy for free parking, allowing street patios and waiver of patio fees.
- Advocacy for grants for small events to help the BIAs. In 2021 Kensington received a grant of $15,000 for Christmas in Kensington.
- Helped develop a City of Calgary Winter City Strategy and implement Chinook Blast/KensingtonLove in February. We received a City grant of $15,000 for the vent.
- We spent $40,000 of your levy money in our member businesses in 2021 buying gift cards as well as 14 weekends of weekend music outside and a Love Letters campaign with gift cards prizes to encourage people to come to Kensington.
What other projects has the ED worked on to benefit Kensington?
Stakeholder on the Hillhurst-Sunnyside Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP). The ARP guides informs and guides development in Kensington. Kensington is the first older established inner city area to go through Transit Oriented Development.
- Helped create a Community Amenity Fund that collects money from developers building in Kensington. Our ED serves on this committee and evaluates potential projects. $566,000 from this fund was used as seed money to raise $4M in funding for the Bow to Bluff (B2B) project which this summer installed highly visible beautification projects including a skate park, playgrounds, murals and art work in the 6 small parks along the LRT line from the river to the bluff.
- Main Streets city-wide project. Kensington is used by the City as the example for other areas and BIAs of how to create and maintain complete and vibrant streets.
Learn more about our work for Kensington in our AGM Report
- 75 retail shops
- 1 specialty grocery store
- 38 eateries/pubs
- 12 fast food shops
- 30 health and wellness businesses
- 10 coffee/tea shops
- 21 salons/spas
- 62 professional services
- 1 travel agency
- 9 jewelry stores
- 23 specialty-services stores
Our membership continues to grow with the addition of new office and retail space with many new mixed-use buildings:
2018 – 271 members
2017 – 264 members
2016 – 175 members
Based on the City of Calgary 2019
census for Sunnyside & Hillhurst
Kensington has seen significant in-district population growth with several new mixed-use developments providing hundreds of new units for residents on 10th Street NW.
Awards & Achievements
2014 IDA Downtown Merit Award
Financing for the rejuvenation of sidewalks, furniture, trees and lighting in Kensington was secured by an award-winning proposal to the City of Calgary that secured $4.5 million in financing at no cost to our members. Further efforts by our Executive Director added an additional $1.5M provided by the City in the form of $500,000+ in trees provided and $1M in new traffic signals implemented. Learn more about this award…
Streetscape Replacement Planning & Oversight
Kensington participated extensively in negotiating always-open access requirements for our businesses, participated in all planning and streetscape design, and provided substantial over-sight throughout the construciton phase. This massive project included the replacement of most of the public realm including sidewalks, streetlights, signage, benches, bike racks and new trees. Learn about this project here…
Surplus Parking Revenue – New Revenue Stream for Calgary BIAs
This annual revenue stream is derived from a percentage of surplus parking generated in Kensington the previous year. Calgary Parking Authority, City Council approved this policy in the spring of 2017. Funds are held by the City to only be spent on public realm projects and cannot be spent on operations or events.