A Focus on BIDs/CIDs.

Posted On Monday, 27 January 2003 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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The second Improvement District in Sandton became operational in mid-November last year. The ‘Sandton Business Improvement District’ (SBID) covers the commercial area of Sandton bounded by Rivonia Road, Sandton and Grayston Drives. Anyone passing through the area can’t help but notice the smartly uniformed and highly visible safety and security officers and cleaning and maintenance personnel as well as a noticeably cleaner environment than previously. The older Sandton Improvement District, the ‘Sandton City Management District’ operates around the predominantly retail area in which Sandton City, Sandton Square, the Sandton Convention Centre and a number of hotels and office buildings are located. Between the two Improvement Districts some 38 safety and security officers (16 on mountain bikes), four rapid response vehicles with six armed officers and 24 cleaning and maintenance workers operate daily. In addition 16 “Ambassadors” attached to the hotels, convention centre and certain buildings dressed in complementary uniforms “bulk up” visible physical presence A smaller crew operate at night.

Prof Lorlene HoytWhat is particularly interesting about this relatively new and more modern area in comparison to the inner city, is that property owners have chosen to adopt the CID model in order to maintain and improve the public environment. Over the next few years these CIDs will be contributing to beautifying traffic islands and upgrading informal trading and taxi facilities as well as embarking on ‘place marketing’.
 
The past three weeks has in fact seen a surge of interest in South African and local City Improvement Districts from a variety of sources. It started with a visit from Prof Lorlene Hoyt, Assistant Professor of Technology and Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Lorlene was here as part of a research programme she is currently undertaking examining Improvement Districts internationally. Then a week later I lunched with my good friend Alan Tallentire and his wife Nicola and was updated on the development of Improvement Districts in the UK. Alan is the CE of the Association of Town Centre Management in London. He confirmed that the British Government are in the process of drafting legislation to facilitate improvement districts in British towns and cities. Alan anticipates about 30 being operational by March next year. This week I was visited by researchers from the CSIR also looking at the CID model. So the focus is all CIDs at the moment.
 
The definition of CIDs that we normally use categorises City Improvement Districts as essentially geographic areas in which the majority of property owners determine and agree to fund supplementary and complementary services to those normally provided by the Local Authority in order to maintain and manage their public environment at a superior level to that usually provided by a local authority and thus at minimum maintain, but preferably increase, their investment. The Local authority continues to provide normal services to a pre-agreed level.
 
Supplementary services might include safety and security patrol officers, pavement cleaning, litter collection, maintenance of public space, removal of illegal posters, etc.
 
Complementary services might include business attraction; business retention; marketing the CID precinct area and events management to bring more people to the CID area. A number of CIDs in America provide low interest funds to upgrade shopfronts, plant trees, replace pavements, supply street furniture, etc. 
 
Through legislation the cost of the provision of whatever services a CID is to provide is then spread over all property owners within the geographic area. Funds contributed by the property owners may only be spent in the area in which they are collected unlike rates.
 
An interesting definition of CIDs (in the USA generally referred to as Business Improvement Districts or BIDs) that I came across last year emanated from the Mayor of New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The occasion was a Public Hearing on Local Laws at which the Mayor had authorised budget increases for nineteen of the city’s forty four BIDs. He stated:
 
 “BIDs are community organizations that are voluntarily formed to promote business development and improve quality of life in neighborhoods across the City.  Established by local law, BIDs are self-funded through assessments on property owners located within the BID and provide services such as sidewalk sweeping, public safety officers, street landscaping and guides for restaurants and shopping in the district.
 
BIDs have played an integral role in the economic development of our neighborhoods and signing this bill is indicative of the support my Administration is providing to the key role BIDs will play in the City’s future growth.”
 
That’s a ringing endorsement for the private urban management model from the leader of one of the world’s great cities!
 
Larry Houston, a principal of The Atlantic Group in the US, in an article published in 2000, says; “The oldest BIDs in the United States and Canada have a quarter century of experience behind them. Some of the best known – Times Square, the Denver Partnership, the Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone, Philadelphias’Centre City District and the Downtown Baltimore Partnership – have passed the five year point and been reauthorised. There are about 1000 BIDs in the US and Canada, where similar commercial challenges and fiscal arrangements have produced a common phenomenon. That number could easily double in the next 20 years.”
 
The reauthorisation period in Gauteng is three years – Lorlene Hoyt was telling me that some BIDs have proved so successful in the US that their lifespan before reauthorisation has been extended to 25 years!
 
Paul Levy, one of the doyens of BIDs in the USA and Executive Director of the Philadelphia Centre City District in a article entitled “Paying for the Public Life” which appeared in the Economic Development Quarterly, reflects on research into BIDs by Jerry Mitchell in which the author “emphasises how BIDs incrementally revitalise cities, adopting Jane Jacobs’ focus on the details of the pedestrian experience, rather than on Robert Moses’ passion for grand, disruptive projects.”
 
The forerunner of South African BIDs was established in the Joburg CBD in 1993 on a pilot basis. An area covering the equivalent of twelve city blocks was identified for the pilot BID roughly in the area bounded by Main to Pritchard and Kruis to von Wielligh Streets. It was subsequently extended to Jeppe as well as to the west and east. The problem in establishing the BID was that, unlike the USA, no legislation existed at the time and the BID thus had to be established on a voluntary basis. Compounding the problem was that few of the property owners really understood the model at the time.
 
The first service to be instituted was that of security. The highly visible appearance of a large number of security officers on the streets resulted in a dramatic decline in city crimes, particularly muggings within the BID area.
 
Some months after the introduction of security officers on the streets of the BID area, cleaners and maintenance workers were introduced.
 
The third service to be introduced related to upgrading facilities for informal traders in the BID area whilst also reducing their numbers to a level that would enable those trading in the BID to make a living above the subsistence level that they had been historically experiencing. This was followed by introducing flags and banners and limited greening to the area.
 
Within a short period of time the BID programme was extended to other parts of the city but this proved to have practical limitations in the absence of appropriate legislation. As a result BIDs were established only in areas where groups of contiguous property owners wanted the service. Between 1994 and 2000 five voluntary BIDs were established in the inner city area and subsequently limited BID services were provided in three additional areas.
 
During 1996 the CJP in conjunction with the Washington DC based International Downtown Association (IDA) and the UK organisation Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM), arranged a ‘cities study tour’ of the UK and USA for senior officials of the City Council and the Provincial Government together with Business and Community representatives. As a direct result of the study tour appropriate BID legislation was drawn up which was approved by the Provincial Legislature at the end of 1997.Known as the 'City Improvement District Act No. 12 of 1997' (the Provincial authorities preferring the connotation of CIDs to BIDs) it, for a variety of bureaucratic reasons, only became effective in November 1999.
 
Since then and apart from the inner city, CIDs have been established in Rosebank and Sandton and also in Pretoria – Sunnyside, Church Street, Arcadia and Hatfield (in process).A number of CIDs are operational in Cape Town including the CBD, Sea Point, Claremont and Wynberg. There are also central city CIDs operating in Durban and I see that their City Manager has actually been authorised to approve CIDs which they call UIPs (Urban Improvement Precincts) in .that city.
 
Paul Levy again; “BIDs represent a concerted effort by business leaders to change perceptions of downtown as a whole, to surmount the limits of public resources, and to respond to suburban competition with well-funded, professional private sector organisations. BIDs gather under one roof the diverse disciplines of crime prevention, maintenance, marketing, landscape architecture and urban design for a co-ordinated approach to downtown improvement.”
 
We’ve got a long way to go but the momentum gathers, regards, neil.
 
Neil Fraser is Executive Director of Partnerships for Urban Regeneration (PUR) and the Central Johannesburg Partnership (CJP) – private non-profit companies dedicated to the revitalisation and regeneration of urban centres.
Last modified on Thursday, 15 May 2014 13:47

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