March 31, 2019
It has been just over 4 years since I joined the team at DUKE Heights and it is with pride and some apprehension that I am moving on. DUKE Heights has grown tremendously over that time, creating a new path for Business Improvement Areas in the process.
The trajectory has not been a straight line, these things never are and the personal learning curve for me was tremendous. Like all difficult journeys, the accomplishments were tremendous:
We partnered to create leverage out of our businesses' investment into the area:
• Planted over 2,000 trees in the area, with more on the way every year
• Creating a sector-based employment strategy through a Metcalf Foundation grant
• Developed a partnership with Osgoode Hall to create linkages between local businesses and Osgoode and York University, helping both local businesses and local students
• Received grants to create a mural, develop new web tools and create new services for local businesses
• Received grants for youth employment, which we used to hire over 2 dozen students
We helped create a new voice for the area:
• Collaborated with Toronto Hydro, which led to the investment of over $35 million to improve infrastructure in the area
• Worked with TTC to improve new transit routes as a result of subway station opening
• Worked with staff at the City of Toronto in the Planning and Transportation departments to ensure that the area received the attention it needs to continue to develop
• Developed new events that foster the area, like DUKE Eats and DUKE on Ice, which brought in over 1,500 people on their year
We helped to change how the City of Toronto treats employment areas and employment BIA's:
• Changes to Imagination, Manufacturing, Innovation and Technology (IMIT) grant to allow for commercial condominiums to apply to program and encourage more development to help grow employment
• Changes to the façade program from the BIA Office to allow for large businesses to apply
• Changes to BIA Office, including Innovation Grant, which DUKE Heights was one of the first to receive
More things are coming. The DUKE markers, pole wraps, street furniture, more festivals and events, banners and street art that are in the works, are being designed and will help transform the public realm and the area. The fantastic team that is left in place to continue to further this work leaves me excited for the possibilities.
Above all, on a personal level, I learned to appreciate the hard-working people in the area. The businesses and people that give our area the energy and vibrancy that made this such a joy for me over the last four years.
I want to thank the Board members and my co-workers for all that they have taught me and for the wonderful opportunity I was given to help buildup the community I live in. It is impossible for me to recount how much I learned. It has been a privilege for me, and I am thankful for the opportunity.