They call him Downtown Charles. Okay, he calls himself that, but it fits. For the past 27 years, Charles Gauthier has led the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, one of hundreds of BIAs that sprung up across Canada (and the world) in the past 40 years.
Beginning in 1992, with a downtown business core saddled with double-digit commercial vacancy rates, Gauthier has helped usher in new programs aimed at stimulating greater public engagement in more public spaces. More promotional and support programs for downtown businesses. And with all that, sustained growth and livability in one of North America’s most densely populated and heavily commuted downtowns.
More tellingly, Gauthier has led the BIA — staff, Board and Policy Council — into tough conversations, many of them public, about policy issues once considered outside the purview of the business community. That’s because they’re issues at the core of what makes this city tick — bike lanes, transit, housing policies, and intersectional diversity and representation. First in traditional media, and now on social media, Gauthier has become a voice of reason (and in Gord’ view, “master of the segue”).
Today, just prior to yet another BIA renewal process, and as a new council votes on a number of important motions about active transportation and densification, Gauthier say’s he’s ready…to fight the NIMBYs.