8 Questions with 8 80 Cities: In Dialogue with Maureen Healey, Executive Director of the Bronte BIA in Oakville, ON

In 8 Questions, 8 80 Cities asks amazing partners we’ve worked with, or amazing people doing amazing work eight questions about their passions, their history and their amazing-ness. And then we ask them to suggest a question for our next interviewee. 

8 80 Cities Project Manager Jayne Armstrong, spoke to Maureen Healey, the Executive Director of the Bronte Village Business Improvement Area on the Bronte Forward! Project. Maureen spoke about her vision for the future of Bronte in a post-pandemic world. 

As is the tradition in the 8 Questions With series, the previous interviewee asks the first question to the next interviewee. We last spoke with Hadi, volunteer extraordinaire, who asks Maureen: 

If you could change your career to a field that you love volunteering in, what would it be? 

It would still be in business and communications. Even in my volunteer work, I am still involved in all things business!  

What has the pandemic taught you about the role of the BIA?  

The pandemic has taught me that the heart of the BIA is communicating with its members. My tenure at the Bronte BIA began just before the pandemic started, and I quickly realized that there were no formalized channels for how to ensure communication with the business owners. I have since pushed for a comprehensive communications list and I am gearing up for a post-pandemic Bronte where communication and partnerships are key to local recovery. 

What is the role of BIAs in post-pandemic recovery? What does this mean for small businesses?

The pandemic has given the Brone BIA time to breathe and reinvent itself. Taking a step away from the day-to-day logistics around event planning allowed me to think outside the box, and begin strategizing what the future of Bronte can look like. This strategic thinking has inspired the Bronte Forward! Campaign as we look to new ways of creating partnerships and fostering support. The BIA and 8 80 Cities are excited to show insight into this strategic thinking later in summer with the release of the Bronte Forward! Vision Strategy. 

Before coming to the Bronte BIA, what was your experience working for the Downtown Vancouver BIA? What brought you to work with the Bronte BIA? 

Working with the Downtown Vancouver BIA was a thrill, particularly during the 2010 Olympics when the whole city was humming with activity. I worked in Vancouver for 10 years before leaving the west coast behind to travel the world. Over the course of 14 months, I visited 24 countries all with one trusty carry-on backpack. Upon touchdown, I set my eyes and heart on Bronte, a community that I knew and loved from growing up in the GTHA.   

You’ve brought us on board to engage in equitable consultation and participation. Why was this important to you?  

Partnering with 8 80 Cities is an opportunity to work with an organization that values all voices from communities who are typically left out of consultation and participation processes. While Oakville can look and feel a bit homogenous, we know it is diverse and that all voices should have a say in what the future of Bronte looks like.  

Throughout the Bronte Forward! campaign, what has surprised you so far about this work? What weren’t you expecting? 

What surprised me the most about the Bronte Forward! campaign so far is the affirmation and support for the project. The stars aligned and the timing felt right for me and my executive board to begin to engage in forward-thinking. Bronte is undoubtedly going through growth, development and community change. The timing was ripe for the BIA to think towards the future on how to best amplify community desires as Bronte emerges from the pandemic and looks toward a more people-friendly business district. 

Many people we’ve spoken to in our research have called you a visionary. What is your vision for Bronte 10 years into the future? What pilot project would you like to implement in Bronte this year? Why would this excite you? 

A 15-minute neighbourhood by its full definition. A 15-minute Bronte is a place that people will be able to age in place safely, vibrantly, inclusively. I would love to implement wayfinding! We’ve heard through our workshop that many folks feel there is a lack of wayfinding and connections between local assets. It would be great to join forces with the town and a funding partner to do a pop-up wayfinding pilot, test it out and see what works. 

What question would you like to ask our next interviewee? 

When you can travel again, what is the first place you will go to and why?  

Stay up to date on all things Bronte Forward! by following the BIA’s InstagramFacebook and Twitter. 

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