Property owners in Chattanooga's central business district will decide over the next few months whether to levy against themselves a fee worth $1 million annually to create a business improvement district.
Brad Segal, president of Progressive Urban Management Associates, said the money would be used to provide services to generally help keep downtown clean and safe.
"We've heard support from property owners," he said Wednesday at a meeting unveiling the potential business improvement district (BID).
PROPOSED BID SERVICES
* Clean and safe: $625,000* Beautification/special projects: $200,000* Management/administration: $175,000* Total: $1 million annuallySource: River City Co.
Kim White, who heads the downtown nonprofit redevelopment group River City Co., said owners of about 284 parcels of land in the center city will receive petitions asking whether they would agree to the BID and the extra assessment.
"We'll start with petitions this month," she said.
The BID roughly would have a footprint from Riverfront Parkway to 11th Street and U.S. 27 to Cherry Street, Segal said.
For the BID to be created, approval would be needed from the majority of the property owners representing two-thirds of the value of the parcels, he said.
If the BID receives the OK, the Chattanooga City Council would need to sign off, Segal said.
The startup of services could begin next year, he said. The BID would last for 10 years, though up for review after five.
For commercial and nonprofit landholders, annual assessments would be 9 cents per square foot, of the greater of lot size or building size, plus $4.95 per linear foot of lot frontage. For owners of residential property, they'd pay $150 per unit, according to Segal.
If the BID is approved, all the property owners in the district would be required to pay, officials said, though government can't be compelled. But White said the city and Hamilton County are each supportive of the BID.
Last year, local officials began study of a potential BID for downtown, which already exist in parts of Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville. Segal's Denver, Colorado-based company was brought on board and talks started with business people and others about their interest.
River City said such districts are already in operation in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis.
"Our downtown has some work to do," said White. "I think we're falling behind."
Segal's company offered photos of downtown showing graffiti and sidewalks which needed cleaning. Approval of a BID would "allow for the manpower and equipment to take care of details downtown," he said.
Also, so-called "ambassadors" would be hired to interact with panhandlers and the homeless on the district's streets, Segal said.
Amy Donahue, River City's director of marketing and communications, said the ambassadors would seek to help those who are homeless or transient.
If there are crime issues within the district, ambassadors will act as "eyes and ears," she said.
In addition to making downtown cleaner and safer, about 20 percent of funds were recommended for a variety of improvements such as signage, beautification, promotions or parking management.
River City has offered to manage the BID, while a board would be chosen to oversee the district, Segal said.
White said the city has committed to a fixed contribution to the BID. Also, the city has agreed to provide a base level of services such as the number of police officers and how they're deployed.
But businessman John Clark raised a question about how much the city is now doing downtown, citing bike patrols.
"The city says it's doing it," he said. "When was the last time you saw them?"
Segal said a BID can hold city government accountable.
Argil Wheelock, who has a downtown apartment, said he thinks a BID is "a great idea."
"We need to clean up downtown," he said.
David Steele, who works downtown and lives near the BID, said he thinks the district is "an exciting opportunity."
"The details have to be worked out," he said.
The BID is a little smaller than was originally under consideration last year. Segal said that push-back was receive from some residents in the Walnut Street Bridge area. Also, most of the Unum property is not in the BID.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.