Atlantic Avenue BID moves forward

As far as downtown Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) go, the one proposed for Atlantic Avenue appears more accommodating to many of the small shops that line the strip.

That was the consensus among the more than 50 people who crammed into the St. Cyril Belarusian Church, 401 Atlantic Avenue, Tuesday to hear about further plans for the BID’s formation.

A BID is a formalized way for businesses in a commercial area to fund extra services in their community.

The way a BID works is every business and property owner in a determined area is assessed and each contributes a certain amount of money per year.

The money goes to the city, which holds it, and then reallocates it to the BID.

The BID, which is made up of the merchants and property owners, decides how to spend the money and create its own priorities.

The proposed Atlantic Avenue BID boundaries will be on Atlantic Avenue from the waterfront to Fourth Avenue and include one block north to State Street and one block south to Pacific Street.

Elizabeth Crowell, co-chair of the BID’s steering committee, and owner of Sterling Place, 363 Atlantic Avenue, said the proposed annual budget for the BID would be about $240,000.

“We feel it is a budget that could bring a lot of benefits to the Avenue and at the same time is very mindful of the smaller businesses and what they could afford,” said Crowell.

Crowell said about 30 percent of the budget would go for marketing and promotion such as publishing a shopping guide and holiday lighting.

“We (the BID) would also provide sidewalk sweeping and litter removal four times a week in the district and we would preserve maintenance for the historic lights,” she said.

Crowell said operational expenses include the hiring of someone, preferably with a master’s degree in urban planning, along with getting an office space, an annual audit and insurance.

Steering Committee member Rachel Leibowicz, who has owned Circa Antiques, 374 Atlantic Avenue for the past 35 years, said the assessments on property and business owners are very reasonable compared to the abutting Court, Livingston, Schermerhorn BID.

“Our formula would make my storefront $560 a year so it’s very reasonable for what you get. So it’s a big bang for the buck. The minimum assessment in the Court, Livingston, Schermerhorn BID is $2,400 a year,” said Leibowicz.

Crowell said there are about 300 properties in the proposed Atlantic Avenue BID, but some are residential where residents are charged a nominal fee of $1 a year.

In order for the BID to be established more than half of these 300 need to approve it and thus far more than 100 have, she said.

Crowell said after a majority backs the BID via ballots, it will be submitted to the City Council for final approval.

That should come around April 2011, she said.