The Rochester Downtown Development Corp. is leading an effort to establish a business improvement district in downtown Rochester, and 63 percent of RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll respondents support it.
A BID is a defined geographic area with an annual assessment to pay for services that go beyond what the city government provides.
RDDC argues that the district is needed because downtown’s “on-street experience” has not kept pace with the investments businesses like ESL Federal Credit Union and Windstream have made in the city center. More than 1,200 BIDs exist nationwide.
The proposed downtown BID would encompass the area stretching from High Falls to Monroe Avenue beyond Alexander Park. The district includes 1,085 individual properties and 505 property owners, RDDC says.
The district would be managed by a new non-profit—the Rochester Downtown Partnership—governed by a 15-member board. It would replace the three organizations now serving downtown: RDDC, the Main Street Enhancement District and Downtown Special Services Inc.
Commercial and residential property owners would be assessed an annual fee, and payment would not be voluntary. Sixty percent of those respondents who identified themselves as property owners within the proposed BID support it.
Roughly 475 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted June 23 and 24. Nearly two-thirds of respondents to the poll do not own property, live or work within the proposed district. Of those, 62 percent support its creation.
The percentage of support was similar for the 29 percent who don’t own property within the proposed district but do live or work there.
Do you support or oppose creation of a business improvement district in downtown Rochester?
Do you own property or live or work within the proposed BID?
I neither own property nor live or work within the proposed BID. 64%
I do not own property within the proposed BID but live or work there. 29%
I own property within the proposed BID. 7%
Of course those who live, work and/or own property within the BID have most at stake in this decision. But the rest of us also depend upon the city’s ability to thrive. Our community is not an “us-vs.-them” paradigm but a critical public-private partnership, and we’re all in this together. For our region to thrive, our city must thrive. We all need to roll up our sleeves to pull together and work together to do everything possible to help our city economically, socially, educationally and spiritually. Disparities hurt us all. This BID seems to be one significant and positive step toward creating a city we can all be proud of.
—Jocelyn Goldberg-Schaible, president, Rochester Research Group
BIDs are used successfully throughout the United States as a means to support revitalization and promote a positive economic environment for private investment. This could be a powerful tool to help support Rochester’s downtown redevelopment efforts.
—Andrew Raus, AICP, Bergmann Associates
I live at Erie Harbor, about a mile from downtown. My wife and I walk downtown regularly (and a snippet of Main Street is part of my regular jogging route). I think a BID is a great idea for downtown because it will help the area become even more welcoming.
I am a city resident. “Assessment” is nothing more than a private taxation. It is a dangerous precedent. This is one more way to squeeze out small businesses that don’t fit the ideal of the white, moneyed developers and the crowd they are trying to attract. The ultimate goal here is to control the streets and make downtown essentially a gated community.
—Eve Elzenga, Eve Elzenga Design
I have worked and lived within a mile of the proposed area for 50 years and have watched the downtown area wax and wane. It would be great to have a bustling downtown again!
—Marion Oyer, Bags Unlimited
Sounds to me like over the past 20 years, the RDDC has failed in its mission to “deliver a vibrant and economically strong downtown” and is now looking for a financial lifeline to continue doing basically little more than providing sound bites to the local media anytime something insignificant happens downtown.
—Lester Wilson, North Syracuse
So, one more way to take from the successful and give to those who only perform on a marginal basis. This would be simply one more non-elected agency in a city that will have the ability to tell property owners what they may or may not do with their property. (The same is happening throughout the state and our nation.) If there are services that the city does not or will not provide through its own tax revenue, then why haven’t the elected city officials found ways to provide those services if they are necessary? If the city wants to experience sustained development and growth, why not find ways to pay for services while at the same time reduce the tax burden (and fees) upon city businesses and residents? The answer is obvious; overwhelmingly the elected representatives on City Council would rather avoid the image of their raising taxes and pass it off to an unelected agency that will be able to charge fees that businesses and residents will be forced to pay without an ability to contest those fees and assessments. This idea is just another example of elected representatives shirking their responsibility to the electorate.
—Michael F. Kloppel, chairman, Ontario County Conservative Party
Before I’d commit to another “agency,” I’d like to evaluate all the so-called business developers on the city/county payroll so we do not continue to have duplication of efforts that apparently are not productive. Otherwise why even consider another agency?
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
Sounds like a tax—just dressed up under a different name. Let the free market do its thing. The more governing bodies we have, the less freedom we have.
Another bureaucracy, another tax, no accountability. The beat goes on.
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield
I have worked with other municipalities that have created BIDs for their downtown areas. BIDs have been effective in creating safer, more aesthetically pleasing and more vibrant environments. Creating a downtown Rochester BID, together with the numerous development projects, will help accelerate the transformation of downtown Rochester.
—Brad VanAuken, president, BrandForward Inc.
Now is the time to step up our game to the next level! The proposed BID will help us make that happen. Rochester competes globally, and our city center must as well if we are going to be the vibrant, attractive and growing urban center that will spur economic growth and long-term resiliency. Our firm has been downtown for more than 20 years and believes now is the time for this to happen.
—David Beinetti, president, SWBR Architects
I do support the proposed BID as it would consolidate the existing three entities with broader vision and improved efficiencies. While I neither work nor live in the city, I was born there and share the loyalty and desire to see it succeed. With the interests of business owners and residents represented on the board it would seem to suggest a positive outcome for visitors, as well.
—Tom Sargent, Penfield
Remember way back when the city fathers proposed encircling the Central Business District with the Inner Loop. The main reason was to move traffic around the city’s business core so it would be easier for people to shop and travel within the CBD. Along with the Inner Loop came the one-way streets. Did it work? Apparently not. What’s on the table now: fill in part of the Inner Loop and going back to two-way traffic on the major arterial streets. City government needs to do a little more homework. After reading the FAQs, I’d be willing to bet the answers given were the same ones that were used when they were talking about building the Inner Loop. Creating a taxing entity in the form of a 15-member not-for-profit board is like adding another “authority” to government with the power to levy taxes with little or no oversight. Many of the things they are proposing can be accomplished without adding a bureaucratic layer to government. Too many questions and not enough answers.
—Donald Faso, former chairman, Monroe County Planning Board
Let’s see if this idea works: Mandate increases in the costs of residing and doing business in downtown Rochester, and the masses will flock in to take advantage of the opportunity! Smacks of “taxation without representation,” as well! Where do I sign up?
—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency Inc.
I trained in Philadelphia, a city designed by William Penn. Part of his design was to have one wide street, then one narrow street. He never wanted a poor person to be more than one street away from a rich person. I neither live in nor work in the Business Improvement District, but the center of the city of Rochester is the center of the whole Rochester area. It will take the drawing of 10,000 people into the center city of Rochester to make the area take off with restaurants, attractions and shopping.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D.
I’m tired of these failed government programs that favor some businesses over others. Eliminate the government programs, reduce the size and cost of government and reduce taxes for the whole state. Then we will stop losing jobs to other states. New York has been driving jobs away for 60 years. It’s time to reverse the situation.
—Dennis Ditch, Delta Square Inc.
For more comments, go to rbjdaily.com. To participate in the weekly RBJ Snap Poll, sign up for the Daily Report at rbj.net/dailyreport.asp.
6/20/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.