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Watertown’s Public Square is dusted with a layer of snow in November 2019. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Stephanie DeVito said Auburn’s downtown saw nothing but growth after it established a Business Improvement District years ago.

Ms. DeVito, executive director of the Auburn Downtown Business Improvement District, told a group of local residents on Wednesday that Watertown could see that kind of success if it, too, establishes a BID.

Property owners, merchants, city officials and downtown residents would work together to make downtown better, she said.

“It’s all about collaboration, it’s all about partnership,” she said.

For about a year, the Downtown Business Association has been exploring whether to form a BID in the city’s central business center.

A BID provides services that enhance the area it encompasses like daily trash pickup, improved snow removal, event coordination, collaborative marketing and beautification projects.

So far, Joseph Wessner, the DBA’s president and chairman of the group’s committee looking into the BID, said the idea has been met with little opposition.

“It makes me nervous,” he said, adding it would be easier to get the BID message out in the public if someone came out against the proposal.

The BID needs just 51 percent approval of the property owners. He hopes for overwhelming support when DBA officials begin gathering signatures on petitions from property owners next month.

If the BID proposal gets support, he’ll attend the March 9 City Council meeting to get city lawmakers approval. Council members must approve the proposal, the BID boundary, the amount of its budget and its revenue source.

Once that happens, DBA officials will then start forming the Watertown BID; it could be in operation by the end of the year.

While the formula is still being finalized for the Watertown BID, property owners will mainly be charged by square footage of the property’s ground floor space, he said.

Initially, the BID will have a $100,000 to $110,000 budget to get started, have a director as its leader and be governed by a board of directors.

The Downtown Business Association’s committee has been working tirelessly on the proposal since August, Mr. Wessner said. The DBA committee has talked to officials from about a dozen other BIDs to see how they operate.

During their visit, Ms. DeVito and Jesse Kline, assistant director of the Auburn BID, took a walking tour of downtown and answered questions about the Auburn organization and what to do to get one started in Watertown.

DBA officials are modeling the local BID after what has been done in Auburn.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(2) comments

mcferran

I would suggest that you look at Church St. in Burlington, Vt. It might not help Watertown but it might help.

rdsouth

Watertown's downtown needs an anchor store. It's like a mall that just has the little side shops that benefit from the foot traffic but that people don't come to the mall for in the first place. Maybe we could get a Sears or a K-Mart. Since brick and mortar retail is doing so well. Compete with the booming malls.

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