MiMo, Design districts under study for business districts
By Risa Polansky
The Miami Modern historic district on Biscayne Boulevard and the Design District are to be among the targets of a study of areas where business-improvement districts might be established, says Marcus James, project manager for the Miami Department of Economic Development.
The study, to be conducted within three months by a yet-to-be-selected company, he said, is to analyze the areas' ability to support improvement districts.
Property owners within the boundaries of a business-improvement district vote to tax themselves to fund area improvements and market local business.
"We don't just want to arbitrarily go out and start BIDs" without information to back up a need for and the feasibility of a district, Mr. James said.
Owners in downtown Coral Gables last week voted to re-establish their district for a third five-year term.
Taking its cue from the Gables, Coconut Grove's Business Improvement Committee — formed in 2004 to transition into an official improvement district — is in the midst of applying the findings of its ongoing studies toward getting its district off the ground.
"We are still proceeding on an inch-by-inch basis," said David Collins, executive director of the improvement committee.
In analyzing the area, consulting firm BRV Corp. President Daniel Biederman named sanitation, security and improvement to storefronts as the Grove's most apparent needs.
Improvement districts exist, Mr. James said, to remedy such issues.
"The benefit (to property owners) is being able to take more ownership, being more responsible for what happens in their district," he said. District revenues "fill the gaps between what's needed and what the city can provide."
Mr. Biederman has drafted rough boundaries for the proposed Coconut Grove district, Mr. Collins said, and plans to take that and other suggestions, such as a taxation method, to area property owners for input before completing plans and announcing them publicly.
"The first step has to be forums with property owners," Mr. Collins said. "I don't want to give people room to think decisions are being made without the consent of owners."
Also exploring establishing an improvement district is the Downtown Development Authority, targeting Flagler Street.
The authority itself is funded through a tax on downtown properties, but added improvement district taxes could go toward further supplementing services, said Mark Spanioli, senior manager of capital improvements and development.
To introduce the concept, the authority has begun providing a beefed-up downtown cleaning crew and plans also to introduce a team of ambassadors to enhance both safety and customer service.
"What we're providing is a starting point," Mr. Spanioli said. An improvement district "would take over those services and supplement and grow them."
Authority officials plan to survey Flagler Street property owners at the end of the year to gauge their interest.
The MiMo Biscayne Association is considering establishing a self-taxing district within its boundaries, the Miami Modern historic district, Biscayne Boulevard from Northeast 50th to 77th streets.
"We're trying to learn about it," said Fran Rollason, association president. "I think it's the wave of the future."
Mr. Collins agrees.
"I think a year from now, you're going to see a BID here in Coconut Grove," he said. "I think you're going to see a BID on Flagler Street downtown. I think you're going to see a BID on MiMo."
He hopes to see an association of four to five local improvement districts in the next 18 months, he said, as "there are real possibilities here in Miami."