This week’s lesson: Understanding the Business Improvement District in Grand Junction
Editor’s note: In light of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) partially funding the Avalon Theatre $3 million upgrade, it became evident there’s confusion throughout the community as to how the Downtown Partnership works. And rightfully so! This is complicated stuff.
Last week, we discussed how the DDA funds its capital projects. This week, we’ll learn about the BID (Business Improvement District), another legal entity that overlaps with the DDA but pursues separate activities and missions under the Downtown Partnership umbrella.
Grand Junction’s Downtown Partnership isn’t just the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), a statutory authority created by government legislation to aid downtown development through capital projects. It’s also complemented by a Business Improvement District (BID), another legislative mechanism to serve downtown businesses.
“The BID is a separate legal entity,” said DDA Executive Director Harry Weiss, who acts as the head of the Downtown Partnership umbrella. “It’s what’s called a special district. It’s also a creature of state law, and it’s a funding mechanism based on a special assessment.”
According to Weiss, the BID in Grand Junction is not a taxing authority. Rather, property owners within the downtown district agree to pay into a fund that BID manages to do marketing, advertising promotion and special events for the area. It was created for Grand Junction in 2006, set up for 10 years, and it comes up for renewal in 3.5 years.
“(BID) must be renewed by its members,” Weiss said, also noting that “the BID area is a smaller, more compact district concentrated in the commercial core as opposed to the much larger extent of the DDA district.”
It also has a nine-member board, which acts as the same board to the DDA, and it’s appointed by city council. It includes one council member, currently Mayor Pro Tem Marty Chazen, and there are now two four-year vacancies for the DDA/BID board with one board member eligible for a second-term renewal.
And then there’s Aaron Hoffman, BID’s marketing director, who leads the downtown promotional component.
“The focus is general marketing of downtown, promoting special events, and internal communications with BID members,” Hoffman said. “I also send out an e-newsletter every week to BID members” to let them know about important downtown news.
BID additionally organizes a number of downtown events, including Grand Junction’s weekly Farmers’ Markets, the Parade of Lights, Art & Jazz Festival in June, the September car show, Spooktacular, and others.
With more than 200 properties within BID, Weiss noted that approximately $140,000 is generated yearly for marketing services, with additional program revenue (event sponsorship, vendor fees, etc.) bringing BID’s yearly income for services to about $300,000.
“We are looking at whether there are other things BID constituents would like us to focus on,” Weiss added, like doing business recruitment for the downtown area.
That’s because BID isn’t limited to promotions and events as an entity. In other cities, BIDs manage welcome centers, area security, and other services like keeping streets clean.
DTA & BID SERVICES MERGING
What’s the difference between two separate but similar organizations: BID and the Downtown Association (DTA)? Here’s where it gets a little muddy.
The DTA (which is a membership-driven organization similar to a chamber of commerce) and Grand Junction’s BID provides almost identical services to downtown businesses and both exist within the Downtown Partnership umbrella.
“The DTA has been around for decades,” Weiss said, noting that it’s a 5O1(c)(6) nonprofit organization run completely by volunteers. “They were the organization that used to do all the things that BID now does.”
For instance, the DTA used to put on Main Street’s Art and Jazz Festival and it used to manage marketing for Grand Junction’s downtown area.
“They did it as a volunteer nonprofit,” Weiss said. “That’s a big challenge and hard to sustain.”
After BID was established in 2006, the DTA and BID partnered “and in many ways the DTA became the working steering committee” for BID, Weiss explained. “We went to them for policy and ideas.” But there’s always been confusion over “who’s the BID and who’s the DTA.”
Hoffman and Weiss both recently confirmed that, due to confusion, BID will be taking over as sole marketing entity for Grand Junction’s downtown. To accomplish that goal, the DTA will be dissolved and DTA volunteers will be absorbed into the BID.
“They will continue to do what they’ve always done,” Weiss said. “From an operating standpoint, what is currently the DTA board of directors will continue to be the steering committee of the BID.”
The DTA isn’t gone yet, however.
“We’re working through the logistics of transitions now,” Weiss said. “We’re just about there.”
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