Economic Development, Government, and Real Estate

Uptown votes to assess itself for new BID

June 14, 2013
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After years of preparing, planning and proposing, the Uptown Business Improvement District officially exists.

“It’s taken many years of work to get us where we are today,” said Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss.

Grand Rapids city commissioners gave their blessing to establishing the district last week, after more than 70 percent of the sector’s property owners voted to go forward with its creation, marketing proposal and financial plan through a special mail-in voting process conducted by the city.

“They volunteered to tax themselves to improve their portion of the city,” said Commissioner James White.

The Uptown district will generate its budget through a special yearly property-tax assessment. Owners of commercial and industrial properties will be assessed at $5.18 per linear square foot of curb frontage, while nonprofit organizations and churches will be charged half that amount or $2.59 per linear square foot.

In addition, city-owned properties will be assessed at the same rate commercial and industrial parcels will pay. The Uptown BID has 19,471 linear square feet of curb frontage, and the assessment will give the organization a total operating budget of $93,276 in its first year.

Commercial and industrial property owners will contribute $79,710 of that amount. Nonprofits will add another $7,584, while the city will pay $5,982 through the assessment.

Owners of vacant properties also will be assessed. The assessment’s formula and rate can be changed annually, but the special levy is only scheduled for five years.

The biggest line item in the district’s budget is $36,000 for streetscape maintenance and landscaping. Another $24,168 is targeted for marketing and branding Uptown. The business associations, a number of city departments and Neighborhood Ventures all played vital roles in establishing the BID.

“It was overwhelmingly approved,” said City Economic Development Director Kara Wood of the vote by property owners. “This is all part of the transformation plan in how we’re helping our business districts.”

The Uptown BID includes 249 parcels and 187 property owners in the Eastown, East Fulton and East Hills business associations and Wealthy Street Business Alliance. The district includes portions of Fulton, Cherry and Wealthy streets and Lake Drive.

“We hear about the area all the time. People are coming to it from as far as Detroit,” said Commissioner Ruth Kelly.

“There are some wonderful things that are happening in the city,” said Commissioner Elias Lumpkins.

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