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The Preston Street BIA



This digital collection was produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital Collections Initiative, Industry Canada.


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The Preston Street BIA
By Tessa Derksen and Il Postino Staff
The Preston Street BIA (Business Improvement Association) was established in 1987 and since then has represented the interests of over 100 businesses in the area. According to Joe Cotroneo, a long-time BIA member, one of the organization’s main goals is to improve the appearance of the area, thereby encouraging people to frequent the many businesses. The merchants also recognize the role they play in preserving the Italian culture of the area for future generations.

“When people in Ottawa think about going out,” Cotroneo says, “we want them to think of Preston Street and the many restaurants and entertainment venues here.”

Since establishment the BIA has been involved with a wide range of community projects some of which are described below.

La Vendemmia
Taking place annually September 21, 22 and 23, this traditional celebration of the end of the grape season highlights quality wines and foods along Preston Street – the heart of Ottawa’s Little Italy. Grape stomping, winemaking, harvest foods and wines are all part of the festivities.

Portal Archway
A new Ottawa landmark was installed in the spring of 2002 at the corner of Carling Avenue and Preston Street. The Corso Italia Portal Archway serves as a welcome entranceway to the Preston Street area and is the first of its kind in Ottawa. It was completely funded by the merchants of the Preston Street BIA.

The archway consists of four granite columns – two located on each side of Preston Street – with a steel truss arching over the street.

“The plan,” says Joe Cotroneo, a long-time BIA member, “is to install another arch at the other end of Preston Street where it meets Wellington.”

Mural Project
After a lengthy approval process, by which permission had to be obtained from the Ontario Ministry of Transport, the installment of wall murals on the Queensway underpass has finally begun. The murals will depict the heritage of the Italian community.

“Four murals have been completed,” says Joe Cotroneo, a long-time BIA member, “and we’ll install those this spring [2003]. Eventually we’d like both sides of the underpass to be covered with murals.”

The murals are being painted by Karole Marois, a Florentine-trained artist, as 4x8 individual pieces of art. Once finished, they will be installed on special steel tracks to create an outdoor gallery. The Queensway underpass will serve as a means of protection from the elements of weather so the murals are expected to last up to 20 years.

Beech Street Lofts
The former Centretown Lumber Supply store was converted into trendy two-storey lofts that have been very well-received in the current real estate market. The lofts have increased the number of residents and pedestrians in the area and created a new style of housing for downtown Ottawa.

Hummingbird Corporation
The high-technology firm of Hummingbird Corporation, based in Toronto, relocated their Carling Avenue offices to the former warehouse on Aberdeen Street (also formerly a part of the Centretown Lumber Supply complex). The Preston Street area was the preferred choice of location by the employees.

Plant Pool
The Preston Street BIA also supports the reconstruction of the Plant Pool – an Ottawa landmark for generations – situated at the corner of Somerset and Preston Street. Ottawa City Council has approved this project and design plans are now underway. The pool will be accompanied by a community centre and parking lot. The soccer field, basketball courts and children’s playground will remain. Construction will officially begin March 28, 2003, with completion expected by the spring of 2004.

Banner Program
There are always lots of colourful banners on the Preston Street hydro posts. The BIA has the most extensive banner program in the City of Ottawa – five changes per year that depict the different seasons and celebrations. The designs were created by graphic artist Dario Catena, a member of the BIA.

Italian Week
The Preston Street BIA continues to be one of the largest sponsors of Italian Week. In the past, the BIA has contributed funding, goods and services worth $15,000, plus its members contribute another $5000. The BIA also helps the Italian Week volunteer board obtain grants from the City of Ottawa and organize the merchants along Preston Street.

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