WATERTOWN — The Downtown Business Association hopes to present a proposal for a business improvement district in downtown to the City Council by April.

A business improvement district provides services that enhance the area it encompasses like daily trash pickup, improved snow removal, event coordination, collaborative marketing and beautification projects. Districts are typically financed through an assessed fee, and the payment rate would be assessed against the property owner, although it could be passed on to tenants.

About 50 people, primarily members of the association, listened to the association’s new president, Joseph A. Wessner, discuss the proposed district Tuesday during the association’s 2019 annual membership meeting at the Jefferson County Historical Society. While the group has yet to work out the particulars of the district, including costs associated with it, Mr. Wessner said its services would focus on four core areas: beautification, security, marketing and business support. The group plans to gather feedback from stakeholders in the coming weeks to determine what services the district should offer.

“That’s why we want to talk with business owners,” Mr. Wessner said.

City Manager Rick Finn proposed forming a business improvement district last fall to make further strides in downtown growth.

Specific boundaries of the district must also be finalized, said Mr. Wessner, also assistant general manager of Coughlin Printing Group. The current iteration of the proposed district follows the boundaries city officials use for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, spanning portions of Coffeen, Arsenal, State and Factory streets closest to Public Square and following Black River Parkway. Managing a district would require a paid full-time executive director, Mr. Wessner said.

Fifty-one percent of property owners would need to sign off to form a district, but Mr. Wessner said the association would like to achieve a 75 percent approval.

“I encourage you to think about the BID, what it could do to help you business and how it can enhance commerce,” said Carol A. Loch, the association’s treasurer, to the crowd.

The idea of forming a business improvement district has already drawn interest and encouragement from some business owners.

Kevin Hoover, co-owner of Downtown Local Lounge, said he believed additional marketing resources provided by a district would help his business, and April M. Walley, also co-owner of the lounge, said she thought it could bring more foot traffic. Both said their approval would be dependent on the cost. Michael Martini, a family owner of Avon Shoes and Orthopedic Center, said he liked the prospect of the district uniting business owners toward the common goal of improving downtown, although his approval would depend on cost too.

“I’m pretty positive about it,” he said.

Business improvement districts have been around since the 1980s. A BID was proposed for downtown in 1993, but several business owners voted against it and quashed it.

New York is home to 130 districts in Batavia, Geneva, Canandaigua, Ithaca and other areas, Mr. Wessner said. New York City alone is home to 70 separate districts.

“We see the BID as a logical step for the downtown revitalization,” Mr. Wessner said.

Any downtown business or property owner interested in learning more about the district can contact Mr. Wessner at 315-755-2721 or at josephawessner@gmail.com.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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