Kensington businesses and artists at odds

With just two weeks left before the first December market event is expected to take place, the community-centered Market Collective is scrambling to find an alternative venue for the displaced artists and musicians.

On Nov. 13th, the Market Collective announced that a decision has been made by the Calgary Parking Authority (CPA) and the Kensington Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ) to cancel two of three planned markets in December.

“We have approximately 200 artists who have invested their time, energy and resources into preparing their work for December, and it is very important to us to provide the space for them to sell their work in December,” Market Collective said on their Facebook page.

The collective, a community space that hosts a variety of local artists and musicians, has been operating in Kensington for four years, three of them in the Ant Hill Fabrics building.

Since June 2009, they have been leasing the Ant Hill parking space from the Calgary Parking Authority, and when the Good Life Bicycle Shop moved in during the month of March, 2012, all three groups got together to sort out a new plan.

In a message to their Facebook followers, the collective group said that The Kensington Village website originally had the three weekend dates up for December, but later took them down due to cancellations.

Screenshot courtesy of Angel Guerrathere was an agreement between themselves and Good Life Bicycles that for one weekend a month, Good Life would condense their shop to make room for the market. The agreement was put in place, the message said, to ensure that Good Life was not heavily affected.

Angel Guerra, co-founder of Market Collective, said the decision to cancel the dates has blindsided them. Good Life had already agreed to the three market weekends in December, and the BRZ knew about the dates.

In fact, the Kensington Village website had an announcement with the December dates up online, though it was taken down in the first week of November. “There is no way we would go forward booking 200 artists without the confirmation from the BRZ and the CPA,” she said.

Guerra said that the BRZ told her that the markets take up too much parking on the weekends, which limits availability for patrons wanting to shop at stores in Kensington, resulting in the stores losing revenue that they could have otherwise had.

Loyalty to the businesses

During a phone interview, Annie MacInnis, executive director of the Kensington BRZ, said “This isn’t about big businesses against small businesses. This is about the many small businesses in Kensington losing customers.”

She was asked several times for any proof to back that allegation up, but merely countered: “My loyalty has to be to the member businesses that are here day in and day out, month in and month out, opening early and staying late year-round. They pay millions in business taxes to be here in Kensington, and the economy is bad right now.”

However, Guerra maintained that without having any evidence, the BRZ had no ground to stand on. “We bring 3,000 to 5,000 people to Kensington on market weekends, and many of them shop at the other businesses in Kensington too,” she said.

Guerra mentioned that the Collective works closely with many businesses in Kensington who have said that the Collective has been beneficial to the community. She said she has never had any businesses complain to her about loss of revenue or taking up too many parking spaces during the market weekends.

“We’ve actually had a series of emails from local businesses in Kensington supporting Market Collective on those three weekends,” she said.

Proposed concerns

The manager of communications and customer service at Calgary Parking Authority, Shelley Trigg, said in an email that Market Collective “was advised that there were concerns about the December dates proposed by the Market Collective and that the Market Collective would be allowed to use the site for only one weekend in December.

The Calgary Parking Authority met with the Kensington BRZ and the Market Collective on November 5, 2012, to discuss the matter.”
The parking authority offered alternative dates to hold the Market Collective, but the collective declined that option.

Guerra mentioned that she and the Market Collective team have looked at more than 40 venues in the city to move the market events to, but they haven’t found any that are big enough to accommodate all of the local vendors that are signed up for the three weekend markets.

In an appeal to the followers of the Market Collective page on Facebook, a few posts were made asking for people who disagreed with the decision to email a letter to Mayor Naheed Nenshi, the alderman of Ward 7, Druh Farrell, the Calgary Parking Authority and the Kensington BRZ, asking to reverse the decision.

By Nov. 14th, the Market Collective Facebook page said that they had been copied on more than 143 support emails and hundreds of tweets.

“We feel that if enough people join and participate, the city will see how important this is to the community and reverse the decision. Our plan is not to cancel it, no matter what it takes,” Guerra said.

amateri@cjournal.ca 

How do you feel about the BRZ’s decision to cancel the Kensington Market Collective events this December? Let us know in the comments below.