Business Districts Enhanced By Plan

November 20, 2007
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Grand Rapids City Commissioners were wise to adopt a Corridor Improvement Authority last week, which lets business associations create an organization in their commercial districts and operate like the Downtown Development Authority— with the requisite city approvals.

The mini DDAs (see story on page 1) would collect a share of the increase in property taxes that is generated by new development in their sectors and invest those dollars in improvements to buildings and infrastructure in their districts. The city can authorize up to four of these corridors each year.

The potential effectiveness of a DDA-like concept in the neighborhoods of the city is borne out in the ongoing success of the core downtown’s DDA, which, as was stated recently by Mayor George Heartwell, has created a situation in which “we don’t have any rundown portions anymore in the downtown area. Everything is coming along just fine … because of the investments made by the DDA, because of the private sector investments, and because of the public-private partnerships.”

The establishment of the mini DDAs is sound policy that encourages investment in the sectors where people live and work. Business owners are able to preserve and grow their operations and the city’s coffers are able to benefit with additional tax revenues coming from areas that are growing and improving their economic standing. It helps develop publicly financed infrastructures to support growth, enhances the quality of life for residents and attracts visitors to neighborhood business establishments and entertainment venues.

Of the city’s 20 commercial corridors, only Monroe North Business District has a tax increment financing authority, and much of the Heartside Business District is within the DDA boundary. Both of those areas are capturing tax dollars and the successful return on investment in new acquisitions, property and business development is significant when compared to other sectors of the city.

The Neighborhood Business Alliance works to promote healthy commerce in the city’s neighborhoods. This effort follows a long-standing commitment to nurturing and sustaining small business success, in particular. The organization recently presented its annual Neighborhood Business Awards, once again emblematic of the vital contributions such individuals and organizations make in their own neighborhoods.

Another intriguing opportunity for business owners who are currently on the fringe of downtown to improve their properties is on the horizon as the DDA looks to expand its boundary. This important proposal should be explored and scrutinized in the interest of expanding economic vibrancy throughout the city.

Kent County is among the entities facing decisions on how to participate in tax capture programs that could impact its finances and services. The county’s willingness to negotiate and compromise in reaching separate short-term tax agreements for individual corridors goes a long way to ensure long-term success in promoting the area’s economy.

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