Friday, October 31, 2014

Downtown district delayed, smaller borders likely

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 10:18 AM

click to enlarge Heidi Zimmer-Myer. - FILE PHOTO
  • Heidi Zimmer-Myer.
Creation of a downtown business improvement district has been delayed a year. And when the process starts up again, the boundaries of the BID will probably shrink, says Heidi Zimmer-Meyer, president of the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation.

The RDDC had proposed a district that would encompass 13 neighborhoods: everything within the Inner Loop and High Falls, the Upper East End, and the Monroe-Alexander neighborhood. The district’s boundaries expanded what has traditionally been considered downtown. Zimmer-Meyer has said that developers and investors now consider those neighborhoods to be part of downtown Rochester.

Properties within the new district would, for a fee, receive enhanced services such as litter and weed removal, sidewalk cleaning, and limited snow and ice removal.

Zimmer-Meyer says that the district is needed, and sooner rather than later, because of the rapid pace of downtown redevelopment.

But property owners and others worried about a possible loss of individual neighborhood identity — especially because the proposed BID was so large — and the cost of being part of the new district. And at least one neighborhood that would have been in the district, High Falls, already has its own version of a BID.

“I think there’s a lot of desire to see a BID. The issue is in the details,” Zimmer-Meyer says. “You’ve got to get it set up right so that it addresses what matters to people most and doesn’t blow the budget to the point where people say it’s too much, too expensive.”

Zimmer-Meyer says that she’s not giving up on the BID, but that the process is being postponed a year. There’s no way to go through all of the feedback and draw a new district in time for the deadlines that the RDDC had established, she says. According to the timetable, the BID would have to go to City Council for approval next month and then go off to the State Comptroller for consideration.

“There’s just no way you can do that,” she says.

Zimmer-Meyer says she can see the BID’s boundaries tightening up some, but she doesn’t know by how much.

“You don’t want to rush this because it’s important and a lot of people need to have a say,” she says. “Downtown Boston’s BID took 15 years. And we’re at this now three years. So we’re actually doing pretty well, considering.”

A majority of property owners within the proposed district would have to sign a petition in favor before the district could be formed.

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