Q&A: Andrew Peck, executive director of the Glebe BIA, navigates the neighbourhood’s changing landscape

This feature appears in Ottawa Magazine’s April 2014 issue. Click here to subscribe to the print or digital versions.

Andrew Peck, executive director of the Glebe Business Improvement Area (Photo: Scott Adamson)

Redevelopment at Lansdowne is underway, bringing opportunities but also challenges — especially to Glebe residents and businesses that have set up shop in the historic ’hood. Andrew Peck, an entrepreneur with experience in marketing, has been at his new job for only a few months, but the new executive director of the Glebe Business Improvement Area is quickly coming up to speed on the issues

In a nutshell, what does your position entail?
Essentially a BIA is to strengthen and support a business community and help businesses come together with a common voice. A way to achieve this is through beautification: make sure the streets are clean, attractive, and interesting. Another is to tell the Glebe’s story and help draw traffic to the area — those are the fundamentals. But you’re also trying to keep businesses informed.

You describe the Glebe as being a “jewel.” What do you mean by that?

The Glebe is a gem. It’s surrounded by the Rideau Canal — a UNESCO World Heritage site — and it is the quintessential main street. You walk into a store, and the owner is often standing behind the counter greeting you by name.

Given the changes coming to the area with the redevelopment of Lansdowne, what plans do you have to preserve the Glebe?
By strengthening and promoting what makes the Glebe the Glebe. As a marketer, you have to listen to what people who have been living and working there want and connect that to the needs of the audience.

With bigger retailers setting up shop at Lansdowne, is there a fear the character will change or that traffic will stay at Lansdowne?
There is uncertainty. We won’t know what will happen until it unfolds, but we know that people will be in this area on their way to and from Lansdowne. With business, one of the most important factors is foot traffic, and Lansdowne will draw people to this area.

Do you think fears surrounding the Lansdowne development — especially concerning traffic congestion — have been overblown?
Because of the redevelopment, traffic issues have been in the media constantly. When you hear about parking problems over and over, you start to associate an area with that. Like any city, as it grows, there are going to be traffic issues, especially at peak periods. But parking issues can be alleviated with cycle lanes, a footbridge, rapid transit. There needs to be more ways to get places without relying on cars.

What’s the mood among merchants now regarding Lansdowne?
I wasn’t sure what response I would get, but I can honestly say the mood is good. Every single person I’ve spoken with is very excited to see it come to fruition. Everyone wants to see it succeed, because they recognize it will ultimately draw people to this area. From a business perspective, that will benefit the Glebe’s merchants. But there will be challenges for sure.

You live in Wakefield, which is not unlike the Glebe — both are considered to be places with unique character. Is there anything you’ve seen done there that might work in the Glebe?
Wakefield, like the Glebe, is a community that takes pride in their environment and wants to share it with others. This attitude not only adds the kind of buzz and energy we all want to be around, it helps local businesses thrive. It creates vibrancy and a potent kind of social cohesion that everyone benefits from. The Glebe has this in spades. In Wakefield, I helped local businesses harness this potential and present it to others in a way that is authentic, targeted, and inviting. I hope to do the same in the Glebe.

What is something you’d like to share about yourself?

I’m an incredibly creative, enthusiastic person who wants to focus on the best bits, and I feel lucky to live and work in two communities that appreciate those qualities.