The Overlook with Matt Peiken

Placing a BID on Downtown | Hayden Plemmons, Zach Wallace, Dana Frankel

April 10, 2024 Matt Peiken Episode 148
Placing a BID on Downtown | Hayden Plemmons, Zach Wallace, Dana Frankel
The Overlook with Matt Peiken
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The Overlook with Matt Peiken
Placing a BID on Downtown | Hayden Plemmons, Zach Wallace, Dana Frankel
Apr 10, 2024 Episode 148
Matt Peiken

LISTENERS: Have thoughts about this episode? Send them my way!

Downtown business owners, workers and residents spent a lot of 2023 imploring Asheville officials to get a handle on crime, trash and vagrancy. All along, many were pressing to take matters into their own hands by working with city leaders to form what’s called a business improvement district.

A business improvement district—or BID—is a tax assessment that pays for services on top of what cities and counties already provide. Talk of a BID has been in the Asheville air for decades, but could well soon become reality. There’s a vital public hearing at city council set for April 23 and potential council votes in May and June that could launch the BID with the next fiscal year.  

My guests today are Zach Wallace, vice president of public policy with the Asheville  Area Chamber of Commerce; Hayden Plemmons, executive director of the Asheville Downtown Association; and Dana Frankel, downtown projects manager with the City of Asheville. We talk through all the inner workings of the BID process, explore the history of these discussions and how a BID would work day-to-day on downtown’s streets.

Wake Up, Asheville! and ¡Despierta Asheville!  (in Spanish) are new morning newscast podcasts that give you all the local news you need to know in under five minutes. Both are free to subscribe/follow wherever you get your podcasts!

SPONSOR: Asheville City Soccer Club home games run through June 29 for the women's team and July 13 for the men's team at Greenwood Field on the UNC-Asheville campus.

Support the Show.

Support The Overlook by joining our Patreon campaign!

Advertise your event on The Overlook.

Instagram: AVLoverlook | Facebook: AVLoverlook | Twitter: AVLoverlook

Listen and Subscribe: All episodes of The Overlook

The Overlook theme song, "Maker's Song," comes courtesy of the Asheville band The Resonant Rogues.

Podcast Asheville © 2023

Show Notes Transcript

LISTENERS: Have thoughts about this episode? Send them my way!

Downtown business owners, workers and residents spent a lot of 2023 imploring Asheville officials to get a handle on crime, trash and vagrancy. All along, many were pressing to take matters into their own hands by working with city leaders to form what’s called a business improvement district.

A business improvement district—or BID—is a tax assessment that pays for services on top of what cities and counties already provide. Talk of a BID has been in the Asheville air for decades, but could well soon become reality. There’s a vital public hearing at city council set for April 23 and potential council votes in May and June that could launch the BID with the next fiscal year.  

My guests today are Zach Wallace, vice president of public policy with the Asheville  Area Chamber of Commerce; Hayden Plemmons, executive director of the Asheville Downtown Association; and Dana Frankel, downtown projects manager with the City of Asheville. We talk through all the inner workings of the BID process, explore the history of these discussions and how a BID would work day-to-day on downtown’s streets.

Wake Up, Asheville! and ¡Despierta Asheville!  (in Spanish) are new morning newscast podcasts that give you all the local news you need to know in under five minutes. Both are free to subscribe/follow wherever you get your podcasts!

SPONSOR: Asheville City Soccer Club home games run through June 29 for the women's team and July 13 for the men's team at Greenwood Field on the UNC-Asheville campus.

Support the Show.

Support The Overlook by joining our Patreon campaign!

Advertise your event on The Overlook.

Instagram: AVLoverlook | Facebook: AVLoverlook | Twitter: AVLoverlook

Listen and Subscribe: All episodes of The Overlook

The Overlook theme song, "Maker's Song," comes courtesy of the Asheville band The Resonant Rogues.

Podcast Asheville © 2023

Matt Peiken: Talk about the genesis of talks around a business improvement district. 

Dana Frankel: There was a BID effort 12 years ago? But, I have dug through a lot of old city documents, downtown revitalization documents, and a BID had been discussed as early as the late 80s for downtown Asheville. And that's a time when a lot of business improvement districts in other cities were being explored and created. 

Matt Peiken: At that time, that's when it was starting or bubbling around the country? 

Dana Frankel: Yeah, BIDs really started what, in the early 70s? 

Matt Peiken: What was the impetus of this? What was happening or not happening in cities that prompted downtown business leaders or chambers of commerce or others tasked with speaking for business, what was happening that spurred cities to think we need to do something more than just what our city government and county governments are providing? 

Hayden Plemmons: As we learned from jaren price our keynote speaker at the state of downtown, the very first business improvement district was in new Orleans, louisiana and it was started because there were Folks coming down for Mardi Gras and streets were left and it was really tough for the city to get back to business after all of the Mardi Gras celebrations.

So they found that by creating a quasi governmental or almost private entity that could come in and be very quick, very nimble in cleaning up these streets, they found it to be a super effective mechanism of getting back to business after the Mardi Gras celebrations and not having to pull significant city resources from what they were doing.

And I think that has remained the model in a way that BIDs can really just get stuff done very quickly. 

Matt Peiken: So that sounds like, at least from the New Orleans example, that it was a specific project based thing, not that this is something endemic happening in our city that we need to augment or add to, right?

When did BIDs start becoming a vehicle for more substantive longer lasting changes in cities, or at least the people proposing BIDs? When did they see that as a mechanism for that? 

Zach Wallace: I think it's a story of local government, of government across the board is always looking for new resources and looking for vehicles that can work differently than the government is currently working. In Asheville, you've got a large city that needs different responses, different tools in different places. And I think in other cities, we've seen that BIDs can be this hyper local response to things that are thought of as problems, but also as an investment tool. 

Matt Peiken: I guess one of my questions is Or I think somebody looking on the outside looking in would say why doesn't the city just raise its taxes? Why doesn't the city or county do something, whether it's a referendum or other vehicles to raise the money rather than these outside the government entities coming through almost like a charity in a way. Hayden, you're looking like that may not be an apt analogy, But it's somebody coming into the rescue of a city or county rather than a city or county government agency Funding its own needs.

I think some people on the outside, why do we need a BID when cities and counties are supposed to be handling these functions. 

Hayden Plemmons: Sure. I think from my perspective, it's far more of a partnership than coming to the rescue. And to your point about why shouldn't the city do it, the city represents a very large swath of land and stakeholders, as does the county, and I believe that a business improvement district can be hyper focused on the issues facing downtown. So the city has great staff. They have great resources But it's a little bit different to service the downtown than it is to service the rest of the city, And so the folks in downtown are hyper Attuned to what it takes to serve our community and we feel like we're best suited to do that. 

Matt Peiken: Did you have something you wanted to add to that, Dana?

Dana Frankel: Just that downtowns across the country, again, beginning a lot in the 70s and 80s, have decided to make investments. These stakeholders outside of city governments have decided that they want to invest in a higher level of service or in particular services that aren't necessarily what city governments provide, aren't necessarily core services, and we've seen it Can be and is a successful model, especially when it comes to managing public spaces. 

Zach Wallace: That same time frame that Dana is talking about. This happened in Asheville. It happened in other places. You saw business and residents moving out of downtown. Downtowns were being hollowed out.

And so BIDs and other investments were tools to ensure that downtown stayed viable. From a chamber perspective, and thinking about our region, talking about western North Carolina, we think of Asheville as the economic heart of our region. And making sure that it remains viable is extremely important.

And I think it probably was in those times too, that folks were wanting to make sure that we kept a downtown. 

Matt Peiken: Do the BIDs always work in concert with local governments to say here's what we think our needs are. And then the city says well, here's what we're offering. Here's what we do, but here's some of the gaps, Let's work in concert with each other.

Do they always work together? 

Dana Frankel: They always have to work together to some extent and I think that can look different in different cities depending on the context there and in different states depending on the statutory requirements, but there's always a formal and informal working relationship between BIDs and city government. 

Matt Peiken: So how does that work?

I want to rewind the calendar to maybe almost a year ago when there was that a downtown lunch hour summit, where it was a call for action to do something about our crime that we're seeing in downtown, do something about the vagrancy we're seeing downtown. And I imagine this is what has maybe reignited or spurred some of the movement that we're seeing now in the business improvement district happening. Talk about what the conversations were like between people in the city and People in business and you representing business. What were those conversations like and around how can we work together?

Zach Wallace: I think that lunch, an event that the chamber worked on, was an attempt to raise those issues that employees and employers were having. The BID conversation didn't start then. BIDs again can be a response to those type of events but also are More of an overall tool.

So while yes, coming out of the pandemic at the chamber, we were hearing every day from folks downtown and elsewhere about the issues that they were having. And we were looking for solutions. And some of those solutions included, going to the city and making sure that they understood what issues were happening.

And I think they had a pretty good handle on knowing what was happening, but also saying To those business owners, okay, you're having this issue. Let's think of pragmatic solutions. Let's think of things that you can do that would make this better. And a business improvement district is one of those tools.

Dana Frankel: I'll just add again that the business improvement district model isn't something new. It's something that's It's been discussed for quite some time in this community. It's something that was very clearly recommended in the downtown master plan back in 2009. And that prompted the previous really significant effort to explore business improvement district creation.

And it's a model that works really well, can work really well. We've seen it work really well in other cities. 

Matt Peiken: So when it comes down to actually making it work, talk about the things that business is asking, wants to make happen through the BID, and how is the city responding, and how are you two working in concert on a granular level, specific level, to make a BID happen. What are some of the topics you're talking about and some of the things you're having to hash through?

Dana Frankel: We're talking about, what are baseline services? What are those services that the city provides now that the city will continue to provide? What are the services that the potential business improvement district will provide on top of that? What are the priorities for services on top of that? What do core services look like five years from now for the city?

That is hard for us to know and predict, but I think that's been a lot of the conversation back and forth is about what those city services are and what those BID services could or should be. 

Zach Wallace: And the state statute is very clear that services from a BID should be an enhancement on what the city is doing and not a replacement. And so that base level of service understanding what the city is currently doing was extremely important. 

Matt Peiken: So what are the specific areas of focus that the BID wants to devote its resources to? 

Hayden Plemmons: I would say those services are clean and safe and making sure that we have more of a presence on the streets that can connect folks, downtown employees, downtown business owners, downtown visitors, to services that they might need and are not currently receiving.

And then also just raising the standard for cleanliness in downtown, looking at street sweeping, litter removal, graffiti removal, and Pressure washing, which is very exciting. 

Matt Peiken: Wait, when you say services they might need, can you be a little more specific? 

Hayden Plemmons: Sure. So if a downtown employee needs to be walked to the parking garage or to a parking lot late at night, so they feel a little bit safer, or if there's someone experiencing homelessness or experiencing a crisis in downtown, someone who can connect them to one of our service providers who are doing that work or if a visitor is looking for the Bebe theater And can't find it, they can escort them there. 

Matt Peiken: So to really sum up what the Asheville BID would be about: safety and cleanliness. Those are the two overarching areas. Is it simply that BID money would go to fund more police officers? Would it go to fund more sanitation workers? Dana, you're shaking your head no. So how would this money manifest? And then I want to talk about Where this money comes from once we answer that. So if it's not adding more personnel to existing city services, what does it pay for?

Dana Frankel: The funding created by BIDs is handled differently in different cities, depending on how that's worked on with the stakeholders and with the city. In this case, I'll look to Zach and Hayden to explain what the proposal is for how those funds get utilized. It wouldn't be spent and managed by the city in this current proposal.

Zach Wallace: So the current proposal would have money coming from an assessment, which I think we're going to talk about. And it would be collected by the county, who's the tax collector. It would then go to the city and the city would contract with a third party non profit to manage those services.

And so the service, when we talk about cleanliness, it would not be using city staff to do additional cleaning. It would be going out into the market and finding a contractor who would do that work. 

Matt Peiken: And it wouldn't use city police or county sheriffs for the safety component?

Zach Wallace: So when we talk about safety, the model is using ambassadors. And so an ambassador is not a law enforcement official. They're not enforcing law. They're providing an additional set of eyes on the street. They can communicate, they can work with the police, but it's more about going into situations that maybe don't require a police officer and they can help someone get to services that we currently 

Matt Peiken: have.

Now, I imagine every BID has its own definition of who belongs and who doesn't. So first of all, give me the sense of the geographic bounds for who would be contributing and benefiting from this business improvement district.

Hayden Plemmons: We hope that everyone benefits from the business improvement district, but I'll let Zach speak to the boundaries. 

Zach Wallace: Yeah. So the proposed boundary is started with the city's definition of the central business district. And then hearing from stakeholders, there have been a few places, I guess that had been shaved off.

Matt Peiken: So you can see on a map where the city's central business district is. Who pays into this?

Now, business improvement district is about additional funding for these services. Who within this geographic bounds are contributing and what's the mechanism for them to pay? 

Zach Wallace: So BIDs in North Carolina, again, are created by state statute with council's approval and it's an additional property assessment.

And so you use your current mechanism for property taxation, and you add an additional assessment to that. And so that means that property owners both commercial and residential would pay that assessment. 

Matt Peiken: I would imagine there are residences, people who live here, who would say, Look, I'm already paying through the nose for taxes, that I'm paying for city police, I'm paying for sanitation. Why are my existing taxes not enough?

I'm sure that is going to be some response from people. How do you respond to that? And do they have a say in this? Does this come up for a vote? Not a public vote. It's not a referendum. It's city council, right? So how do you respond to people who say, wait, why are our property taxes, which are already pretty high? Why do we have to pay more? 

Zach Wallace: I would hope to flip that narrative from having to pay more to investing in the services that people want. We continue to hear from business owners, but also from residents, about things that they'd like to see, outside of their door and in the downtown as a whole.

And we're telling them this is a mechanism that you can make that happen. 

Hayden Plemmons: Also, we asked through a number of surveys, both through property owners and residential and commercial, and we asked them, do you believe that this is going to increase the value of your property? And they said yes. 

And we asked if they felt like a BID in downtown would be Good thing for Asheville and overwhelmingly we heard yes. And one thing to note is that in BIDs across the country, once they're established, they're renewed at a 99 percent rate So folks when they have a BID they really enjoy the services that they receive and it's just ancillary to the services that the city is providing. 

Matt Peiken: How much money are we talking about trying to raise every year or is it on a biennium? How is this assessed and how much money are we talking about? 

Zach Wallace: So this would be a yearly assessment and we worked with consultants to create a draft budget: What would you need to provide the services that we're talking about and then work backwards from there? We're talking about a 1. 25 million dollar budget per year and that comes out to a 0. 0919 per 100 of value on your property assessment. 

Matt Peiken: 0. 0919, so that would be like, what, 90 on every 100, 000? If

Hayden Plemmons: you have a 500, 000 property, it's about 450. 

Zach Wallace: And we've got a great calculator on our website, downtownashvilleBID. com. You can put in your property value and you'd see what the proposed assessment would be. 

Matt Peiken: Okay, so You're only asking for 1. 25 million a year to pay for all these services. It would seem to me that this is almost a rounding error in the city budget.

That, the city budget is many multitudes of millions more than that. 

Hayden Plemmons: I just get really excited at the fact when we go back to the word nimble, to go through a city process, it costs money. To get a consultant to hire someone the overhead at the city is huge.

Whereas, a non profit like the Asheville Downtown Association or the Chamber of Commerce can make really swift decisions and be really effective in putting people out on the streets and getting work done, where it can take a little bit longer and cost a little bit more if you have to go through the city processes.

Matt Peiken: So it's not just a matter of whether the city or county are providing these services, it's by not having some of the bureaucracy involved that. You're saying nimble, and that's how I read it.

Zach Wallace: What Hayden said, I want to make sure that it's clear that's not a knock on the city.

We're talking about the nature of local governments and the processes that they have to go through. So when we say that a BID could be nimble, we're comparing it to the way that government is set up.

Hayden Plemmons: I just want to note that it's not because we wouldn't be going through very thorough and transparent processes or that a BID wouldn't do that. It's more so because of the overhead.

And remembering that the city serves the entire city and the city serves or in the county serves the entire county When you're looking at focusing on one area you can move a little bit quicker and again want to echo that Zach said that it's not a dig on the city. It's just like How business works.

Matt Peiken: Now dana had talked about how there was talk going back to the 80s Of a business improvement district. Why are we still talking about it? Why has a business improvement district not happened to this point?

We're talking now four decades of off and on talks. Obviously conditions in downtown have evolved. Downtown in the 80s and 90s was a much different downtown than it is today. I can imagine that the impetus for a BID is different now than it was then.

Why was it never enacted, at least up to this point? 

Dana Frankel: I think it's a really good question, and I think it speaks to the complexity of need in our community, and to some extent, the political environment in our community. Creating the structure of the BID, creating the governance of the BID, determining the services of the BID, locking in core city services and what that looks like.

These are complicated issues. And for whatever reason, in our community, we have not gotten to the finish line on this particular mechanism to invest in downtown. 

Matt Peiken: How close are we to the finish line of bringing this to a vote at City Council? 

Zach Wallace: So we have made an informational presentation to Council and now on April 23rd there'll be a public hearing, which is required by state statute. There won't be a vote on that night and then there will need to be two more votes at council. 

Matt Peiken: Two more votes. Why is that?

Zach Wallace: The state statute requires 

Matt Peiken: We want to make sure you mean it? Like you vote and then we want to make sure you are serious about it. What, I don't understand that.

Zach Wallace: think the way to describe it is the first reading and the second reading. A big part of that is because taxation is a piece of it. 

Matt Peiken: Okay, so we have an April 23rd hearing, and then potentially a vote set up after that, or will there be more hearings? Is it just one hearing?

Dana Frankel: Public hearing is Tuesday, April 23rd. The downtown commission will also have a meeting dedicated to learning more about the business improvement district.

We'll welcome public comment and ultimately consider making a recommendation to city council on Friday of April 26th. And then city council will hear the first BID ordinance reading on May 14th at their regular meeting and the second reading is scheduled currently scheduled for June 11th. 

Votes will take place on both of those dates.

Matt Peiken: Is there any talk or have people or businesses, say in West Asheville or others said, we would like to be involved in a business improvement district, or has it been at least in your time, Zach, you've only been here two years now, but are you hearing it solely localized to downtown? 

Zach Wallace: So when the chamber started this process, we did a feasibility study that looked at three different areas.

It looked at downtown, it looked at West Asheville along the Haywood Road corridor and it looked at the River Arts District. And we used consultants to look at how much a proposed assessment could be for services that those folks would want. What we heard from those areas was some interest. I would say that the difference for downtown was that there was an overwhelming voice saying exactly what they wanted.

That they wanted additional safety measures, they wanted additional cleanliness. Where in the other two areas, the wants were more broad. There wasn't a consensus. 

Matt Peiken: Is it reassessed every year oh, we were effective in area A and B, but area C, not so much, we want to reallocate funding here, or we need more funding, What happens every year in the analysis and the putting into action the BID, what changes and happens every year?

Hayden Plemmons: So there would be a budget each year to determine what the services and how the funds would be deployed that would be approved by council. I imagine that would come with an operating plan or a work plan. plan for the year. And I believe we would also see a longer term strategic plan that would guide the work over a number of years, maybe five years.

The BID would be established for a certain period of time. We're recommending 10 years at this time with a significant check in at the five year mark. And each year you're coming back and checking in making sure it's effective in the areas that you Thought it would be and reallocating funds as needed and that would be guided by the 

Matt Peiken: board.

Who administers the BID. Once it's approved, who oversees it and who's in charge of what happens year one year two year three year four up until the year five reassessment? 

Hayden Plemmons: So the board of directors would do the strategic oversight. 

Matt Peiken: The board of directors for?

The business improvement district. So the BID becomes its own Governing agency in a way, which doesn't exist yet. Who sits on this board of directors,

potentially? 

Hayden Plemmons: Great question. In the meantime, I can talk about the operations. Yeah, please. Yeah, it is. So typically the city would run a RFP process and entities that felt like they were well suited to Manage the operations of the business improvement district would apply In this case the chamber of commerce in the Asheville downtown association will be submitting a joint proposal for the management of the business Improvement district and that would work on the day to day operations of you know Who you're hiring to go out there and clean the streets, who you're hiring to be an ambassador. What do they wear? What does it look like for them to show up every single day? So that's something that a non profit, a 501c3 or c6 would typically take on, and we anticipate the chamber and ADA would do that jointly. 

Matt Peiken: I would imagine also that Even throughout all this, even though they are not city and county operations formally, that there would have to be regular communication and coordination.

Can you talk about how that works on a functional level, like talks between APD or county sheriffs or city sanitation crews or whoever. Talk about how that will work once you've got the BID team and the county and city teams. How does that work? 

Hayden Plemmons: I anticipate that someone would be on staff at the Business Improvement District that would be hired as the liaison to the city, someone who's constantly checking in, making sure they're communicating with all departments of the City of Public Works, APD, whomever it is, to ensure that they're finding efficiencies.

If there's something the BID is doing very well, how can we leverage that to get even better services in downtown by partnering with the city or contracting with the city to take on those efforts? 

Dana Frankel: And I'll just add that the city absolutely welcomes that type of relationship and partnership.

The city actually supported the creation of the Asheville Downtown Association initially and really needs and welcomes private sector partners to help with prioritization and to help with problem solving and coming together and convening stakeholders. And that unified voice is really helpful for the city, and so we welcome that type of partnership, whatever the entity is that comes to the table. 

Matt Peiken: Okay. Now, Zach, I asked you a little bit ago about West Asheville, River Arts District. Let's assume Business Improvement District gets positive votes and goes through.

Once that happens, we already have the bounds of the downtown area. Business district. Is it written into the legislation that the BID will only encompass this geographic boundary for its Entirety of its term or after a couple years if maybe west Asheville's needs or the river arts district needs become So acute or so aligned with how the downtown BID is working, could it expand, evolve to encompass other areas of the city. 

Zach Wallace: The map, the proposed district can change. That's more likely on a very small scale where you have property owners on the edges of the current district asked to be included. I think that it would be important that any proposed BID in any part of our city is hyper focused.

And so if the current proposed downtown BID started providing services in other parts of the community, you're taking away some of the benefits. 

Matt Peiken: Given that would they each entity create its other its own BIDs. Let's say a river arts district We want a business improvement district. West Asheville, we want a business improvement district. Has that happened in other cities where there are more than one business improvement district? 

Dana Frankel: That's exactly what this looks like in other cities. Hendersonville actually has two municipal service districts. In new york city, They're going on Almost 80 business improvement districts.

So prior to coming to back to Asheville where I grew up to do this job for the city, I managed services of a business improvement district in Long Island city, Queens. Our budget was 450, 000, right? That doesn't sound like a lot for New York city budgets. And we were able to do so much with that amount of money.

We had full time sanitation. We managed landscaping and, several public spaces, we managed street furniture, we had an ambassador, we had security. So we were hyper focused on this particular district, and that's something that really is a benefit of this type of entity to be hyper focused on a block level and on a street level and on a district level.

Matt Peiken: Not to be necessarily just a cheerleader for this, but you have to wonder, if these are panaceas for these cities who are seeing tremendous returns. Hayden, you mentioned 99 percent of business improvement districts get renewed. You have to wonder why we haven't hopped on that BID train up to this point.

You're advocates for this, that's clear. Is there anything that gives you pause, or at least something that we just have to watch for, that we've seen happen in other cities with BIDs that we want to avoid here, in terms of maybe overstepping its bounds, clashing culturally with the way cities operate. Has there been case studies that you've seen?

Zach Wallace: Not from experiences in other places. One of the most important things to the chamber is that if this happens, that the folks who are within the district get the services that they want. That's not a reason not to do this. I just say that's one of the things that will be a huge focus going forward. It's a really big deal to ask someone to pay an assessment. And so we want to ensure that they're getting the things that they're asking for. 

Matt Peiken: And this assessment, it's not fixed. This could evolve over time, right? So in year one, you're looking at 1. 25 million in year three, it could be 1. 8 million dollars. I'm just putting that figure out there, and once it's approved It doesn't go back to city council every year for, it does? 

Zach Wallace: So council is the only body that can change the tax rate. So If the proposed board brought to them a need that said we need to increase the assessment or said we've paid for these startup costs, we can actually lower it at that point, that would be a request that the board would make to council. 

Matt Peiken: And that happens potentially every year. 

Hayden Plemmons: It could, but it would be a significant lift to make that happen. And I think one other thing to note is that we know that there's a reassessment coming on property tax values in 2025. So this assessment is based on our current property tax assessment.

So it, maybe look a little bit different. You would just want to meet the budget, so the assessment could potentially go up or down based on what property tax values are next year. 

Matt Peiken: And from what I understand, they're anticipating quite a climb on property value assessments in 2025, which would then, Even if the percentage is the same for the BID, the percentage of money that comes based on your property, if your property is valued right now at 300, 000 and becomes now 350, 000, the money you contribute to the BID would go up just in terms of gross amount, right?

Hayden Plemmons: And that's where the BID board could request that council lower the rate to reflect the amount of dollars collected be the budgeted amount. 

Zach Wallace: So as a part of the presentation to council this last week, there was a proposal for a board of directors and an oversight body that would help make some of these decisions. The current proposal has a number of property owners both commercial and residential.

It includes a residential tenant, a retail tenant, a food and beverage tenant, and an office tenant. 

Matt Peiken: So representing the different sectors, one from each, and there wasn't an election for these people. It's just who becomes the representatives from each district? 

Zach Wallace: So currently, as we understand that What the proposal will do with council is it will create the structure. And then that structure will be used to identify folks who fit these different seats and likely be a part of the RFP process. 

Matt Peiken: And I imagine it would be people who just voice an interest in being part of this, because it doesn't sound like it's just, checking boxes. There's active work that would be involved, right? 

Zach Wallace: Yeah. It's an important part of business improvement districts is that the service team and the city and really all the stakeholders are constantly communicating and the board is another place for that communication to happen. If

Matt Peiken: this passes in the June city council, When would we start seeing assessments and people on the streets doing the work of the business improvement district?

Zach Wallace: That June day is important You know for a BID to start for the tax assessment to start This has to be passed by council before the end of the fiscal year. If not, you would be looking at waiting a whole nother year. And so that assessment process would start, day one of the new fiscal year, the city would then go through its RFP process.

There's not a timeline on that process. I think that we're looking at January of 2025 to really see this be put in place. 

Matt Peiken: Okay. Something that just came to mind and I might put this earlier in the podcast. Who gets hired to do this work on the ground? Are these existing nonprofits that serve similar capacities here in town or would it be a whole new employment based Entity? you know, who gets these jobs? 

Hayden Plemmons: There are a number of different ways that it can happen. The way that I would imagine it would happen here is that there is a firm that does this across the nation block by block.

They Came through Asheville and gave a proposal or just a recommendation of what they believed it would take To service this to the levels that we're expecting. And I would imagine that whomever is contracted to manage the business improvement district would then go through a request for proposal process and if there is any entity that feels like they can actually do the work. They would apply for that and they would hire the folks who are actually on the street doing the work. 

Like Dana, I worked in Denver at the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District for a number of years. We actually had a local firm that was able to come in and do that work and they were really ingrained in the community. They were a second chance employer. They were able to connect folks to wraparound services. They hired a lot of previously homeless individuals or previously incarcerated individuals, so it was a really great program that was ingrained in the community and I think when BIDs work best, that's how it looks so I would love to see Eventually it get to be really locally owned and managed. 

Matt Peiken: Is there anything we haven't talked about the process or how things will look that you think is important for people to understand at least before the april 23rd public hearing?

Zach Wallace: Yeah, so a really important part of creating a business improvement district is hearing from as many stakeholders as possible. And so the chamber, the Asheville Downtown Association, other organizations, DARN, the residential group in downtown have sent out surveys to make sure that they were asking the questions, what are the services that you would want? Do you want to do this? All of those types of things.

The city will be, and has already likely in the mail provided public notice for the public hearing. The BID steering committee is doing the same, making sure that anyone who would be impacted knows that this is happening. 

Matt Peiken: Is there an online component for feedback that people can Chime in that way.

Hayden Plemmons: Yes. So folks who are interested in supporting the business improvement district can sign the petition at downtown asheville BID. com There's also contact information for myself and Zach that if you have any questions or would like for us to come to your group or neighborhood association or business association or just Stop by your business, you can let us know that and we'll respond. 

To Zach's point, we've done a ton of stakeholder engagement. We've had, I think, technically nine town halls or stakeholder meetings where folks could come engage with the consultants or ask questions. We've also done a number of surveys and reached A significant amount of downtown businesses and property owners and also intend to continue to go door to door in downtown over the next few weeks to make sure we're trying to reach both business tenants and property owners and residents.

And we want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to ask questions and give feedback as necessary. 

Zach Wallace: That stakeholder input has made changes to this proposal. We started at a 1. 5 million dollar proposal with 0.11 assessment. And we heard from folks that they didn't want that level of service.

What we heard was a sensitivity to the assessment rate. And so we went back to the drawing board and said, is there a way that we can provide the same level of service at a lower assessment rate?

And that's what we did. You will see things in this proposal that are direct reflections of the things that were heard from stakeholders. So the first proposal and the second proposal, the dollars going to the services did not change. Some dollars were moved from a contingency fund and from the administrative fund. 

Matt Peiken: Dana, is there anything from a city vantage, just to state where the city is at in this, that we haven't mentioned yet?

Dana Frankel: The city continues to be committed to supporting a safe, welcoming, clean downtown environment and we're going to continue to provide services that support those goals and support that work and if this BID effort is successful, we welcome further partnership opportunities.

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