Canada Day moved has BIAs in downtown Ottawa hoping revelers will continue to celebrate downtown

The construction of Center Block is driving the change in location, although there are still events scheduled on Parliament Hill.

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Executive directors of Ottawa’s downtown business improvement areas are concerned that the big Canada Day is being moved west of downtown, potentially dragging thousands of spendthrift revelers with it.

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“It will be interesting to see how this plays out, because it could last 10 years,” said Kevin McHale, executive director of the Sparks Street BIA.

Canadian Heritage announced this week that much of the programming will move to a main stage at LeBreton Flats Park near the Canadian War Museum, with a second event site at Place des Festivals Zibi in Gatineau.

The construction of Center Block is driving the change in location, although there are still events scheduled on Parliament Hill.

However, it is clear that according to the federal government’s plans, the attraction of entertainment will be outside of central Ottawa.

Downtown business districts are thinking about ways to attract people to the east and keep them there.

McHale said Sparks Street is planning a daytime performance by buskers.

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With the LRT serving LeBreton Flats, McHale wondered if people would enjoy quick transportation between the event site and downtown businesses.

“Do people take the LRT to the War Museum and do the show there and (take a) train back down to Sparks, downtown and ByWard to eat something and see what’s going on? other?”

OC Transpo confirmed Tuesday that it will not charge fares on Canada Day, in keeping with its July 1 tradition.

The main party’s westward move leaves members of the ByWard Market BIA disappointed, the organization’s chief executive said.

Kalin McCluskey said the market was a fixed point in Canada Day celebrations before the pandemic hit and businesses were counting on the economic boom that comes every July 1.

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McCluskey said businesses in the market were eagerly awaiting an important decision that would determine whether nearby Major’s Hill Park had any Canada Day programming.

“We are looking at it with caution and hope that ByWard will always be part of Canada Day,” McCluskey said.

Canada Day does not bring the same amount of economic activity to all downtown BIAs.

Regarding the Bank Street BIA, executive director Christine Leadman said Canada Day isn’t necessarily a big business day for the 20-block downtown district, but moving the big holiday out of the center will mean fewer people walking around the area.

“It takes away the opportunity to reintroduce people from downtown and see the new businesses that have opened,” Leadman said.

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Leadman said it would have been nice to get earlier notice from Canadian Heritage that Canada Day events were being moved outside of downtown, as that creates an opportunity for ZACs. There was no value for the Bank Street BIA to hold an event on Canada Day, “but if we had known, we might have done something about it,” Leadman said.

While some business communities will be disadvantaged by the new venue, others may find opportunities there. Commercial areas west of downtown are hoping a relocated Canada Day event will convince revelers to stroll through their main streets.

At the Wellington West BIA, executive director Dennis Van Staalduinen expects there will be an overflow at restaurants in his district, along with the inevitable traffic and parking issues.

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“In general, me and the BIA are always happy when something happens at LeBreton Flats,” Van Staalduinen said.

The challenge will be attracting people from the LeBreton Flats main stage to the surrounding business districts, especially if there will be no dining options at the event site.

Van Staalduinen said his BIA could use GPS advertising so people in LeBreton Flats receive advertisements for Wellington West.

At the Somerset Street Chinatown BIA, executive director Yukang Li said he hopes the event location at LeBreton Flats will draw even more people to Chinatown on Canada Day, which he says brings a lot business to members.

No one knows exactly what Canada Day will mean for Ottawa this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Will tourists come to Ottawa in their thousands, enjoying a natural long weekend, eager to once again take part in a great public celebration? Or will the popularity of Canada Day events largely depend on the interest of Ottawa-area residents?

Michelle Groulx, executive director of the Ottawa BIA Coalition, said she was concerned about the impact of moving Canada Day events to Parliament Hill on tourism.

More BIAs outside of downtown might need to think about how they plan for Canada Day, given how long it will take to complete work on Center Block, Groulx said.

“I think the City is going to have to think about the distribution of activities over the next eight years,” said Groulx.

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