Downtown BID Set to Step in Where City Government Has Failed

By Dagenais, Bernard | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 6, 1997 | Go to article overview

Downtown BID Set to Step in Where City Government Has Failed


Dagenais, Bernard, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


There's a new sheriff in town. Actually, there will be more like 40 to 50 of them. They won't carry guns and don't represent renewed investment in the Metropolitan Police Department. But they will be a tangible sign that downtown landowners have agreed to increase their investment in Washington to make the streets safer and cleaner.

Business Improvement Districts, or BIDs, make their D.C. debut in mid-November in a 120-block area east of the White House. Business leaders in Georgetown and Dupont Circle hope to create two more BIDs next spring.

The management districts, which exist in 47 states, amount to self-taxation with specific goals in mind.

Although local BIDs are authorized by the D.C. government, landowners of more than half the property within a BID's boundaries have to agree to form one. The money is controlled by a board of business leaders, making BIDs a private solution to public problems.

Never mind that keeping streets safe and clean is a basic job of government. Government in the District has failed, leaving businesses to fend for themselves.

Although the city needs to work much harder to keep its successful businesses and attract new ones, BIDs will help property owners protect their investment without waiting for politicians to solve chronic problems.

A slight majority of downtown property owners - 52 percent - decided in July to form the District's first BID, in effect taxing themselves 12 cents per square foot per year. The owner of a 250,000-square-foot building will pay $30,000 a year. Property owners who didn't sign on to the BID still have to pay.

The first BID expects to raise $7.7 million a year to hire the security guards and some 30 street sweepers and to better market an area bounded by Massachusetts Avenue, Interstate 395, Constitution Avenue and 16th Street NW. It's an area with a mix of restaurants, stores and large office buildings. Many landlords will pass the cost of BIDs on to tenants, who can only hope to see a tangible benefit from a new fee that will raise the cost of doing business in an already expensive city.

To some, the city's heavy taxes and poor services are a good reason not to create a BID. …

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Downtown BID Set to Step in Where City Government Has Failed
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