The Melbourne Town Hall was the venue for a public lecture on Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). Dr Seth Grossman a director at the Institute of Business District Management in the School of Public Affairs and Administration from Rutgers University-Newark, New Jersey was the keynote speaker.

Dr Grossman explained that BIDs are partnerships between the public and private sector that achieve comprehensive community revitalization, economic development and quality of life improvements in business and mixed use areas. Such partnerships allow the public sector to adopt a more vigorous entrepreneurial stance, while allowing the private sector to utilize public authority and public processes to achieve economic and community revitalization.

According to Dr Grossman, there are more than 650 BIDs in the U.S.A. and an estimated 1,500 worldwide. There are currently no BIDs in Australia.

In general, BIDs are formed following a proposal by a group of property owners in a geographically defined area to fund services beyond those which local governments can afford. A BID is funded through each business paying a contribution, which is usually collected in the form of taxation. Residents, the Public sector and not-for-profit organisations are not required to make a financial contribution to the BID.

Although the BID is authorised by the municipality, it is managed by private entities that function as publically-oriented public-private partnerships. A BID will comprise of a board of directors who represent the property owners, merchants, residents and public sector representatives who are given authority by the government to undertake projects and programs within the district.

Given the funding constraints of local governments to initiate programs for urban regeneration, BIDs create the opportunity for works that are mutually beneficial for the community and business development.

Times Square, New York BID
Times Square in New York is an example of a BID, which has been highly successful in transforming an area which was associated with squalor and crime into a clean, safe and friendly environment. The Times Square BID, which is run by the Times Square Alliance, was established in 1992. With an annual operating budget of $5.9 million much of the BID’s activities have been directed towards attracting jobs and investment to the district, carrying out market analysis and structuring public/private partnerships for redevelopment projects.

In the year 2000, the Times Square Annual Report estimated the total retail potential in the Times Square district to be $1.646 billion, that being an 88 per cent increase from the 1992 valuation at the time of the BID’s inception.

The Times Square Alliance involves itself in issues of economic development, marketing, public relations, public safety, sanitation, public works improvement and tourism. It employs over forty public safety officers who patrol Times Square between 9:30am and midnight, which has contributed to halving the crime rate from 2000 levels.

In 2009 the Department of Transportation converted five blocks within the Square from a traffic thoroughfare into a series of pedestrian plazas. The Times Square Alliance has funded the works for these new pedestrian plazas which have, since their completion hosted public art exhibitions. These works in the public realm have contributed by increasing pedestrian traffic by 19 per cent from 2008 to 2010.

It is these sorts of improvements to the public realm that bring people to Times Square and contribute to a 98 per cent retail occupancy rate.

Enquires James Million at Collie (jjm@colliepl.com.au)