Also known as Business Improvement District
BIDs make for a tax. The tax goes to another agency and not government.
- Source: Tuesday, October 31, 2006, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Downtown is improving in a big way. The foundation is being dug for Three PNC Center, a 23-story hotel-office-condo complex. New residential high-rises, including some along the riverfront, are in various stages of occupancy, construction or planning. Proposals for a food market and other retail are taking shape.
With all the new bricks and mortar rising from the ground, this is not the time to neglect the remaining streetscape.
The Golden Triangle has had the benefit of being maintained and enhanced by a "business improvement district." BIDs are used around the country as a way for commercial property owners to provide extra dollars, beyond tax revenue, to obtain special services for their business district.
In Pittsburgh, the Downtown BID, which was approved by City Council in 1997 and renewed four years later, funds the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and its initiatives on behalf of properties in a 90-block area. Council, which could take a preliminary vote tomorrow on a five-year renewal of the BID, should back the extension wholeheartedly.
Among the improvements spearheaded by the PDP are trash and graffiti removal; the Safety Ambassadors Program, which assists visitors, discourages panhandlers and keeps contact with 6,000 merchants; advocacy for lower parking taxes and public transit funding; and marketing and promotions for Downtown. The PDP was a key player in developing Pittsburgh's Downtown wireless Internet service, it works on office retention and recruitment and it pushes the cause of Downtown housing.
To support this pro-Downtown agenda, the owners of the 507 properties inside the BID are assessed $3.92 for every $1,000 in land (not building) value. The current BID ordinance caps the program's collection at $1.18 million a year.
The renewal proposal would allow the collection ceiling to rise in each of the next five years. Next year's total collection would be $1.24 million, for instance, and the assessment rate would be raised to $4.12. As more publicly held properties are purchased and developed by private owners, there would be more payers into the BID. As a result, even though the collection ceilings would increase, the rising assessments would not be onerous. For instance, over the next five years, 60 percent of the owners would pay an average yearly increase of only $36; 83 percent would pay an average yearly increase of only $58.
These are not bitter increases to swallow, especially when anyone on the street can see the improvements under way. Council needs to renew the BID, and the PDP needs to continue its work on behalf of a more workable and more livable Downtown.