Proposed business improvement district to focus on safer, cleaner Coconut Grove
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
A business improvement district is taking shape in Coconut Grove with promises of a safer and cleaner community for Grovites.
Miami commissioners unanimously approved creation of a self-taxing business improvement district for a 10-year period to fund area improvements and marketing initiatives subject to approval by affected business and property owners.
Final OK is up to property owners and merchants within the proposed district of about 18 square blocks — stretching from South Bayshore Drive to Darwin Street, from Aviation Avenue to Margaret Street and along Main Highway to Franklin Avenue.
Approval of the proposed taxing district, close to two years in the making, requires a 50%-plus-one vote of affected property owners.
The outlined district incorporates 254 participating businesses belonging to105 individual owners, so it will take 128 "yes" votes for the business improvement district to get the green light, said David Collins, executive director of the Coconut Grove Business Improvement Committee, a city-funded group formed in 2004 with the intent to transition it into the now-proposed business improvement district.
A voting date is not yet scheduled but it's planned for September.
Property owners within the declared district will pay for the first year about 26 cents a square foot. A medium-sized business in the area occupies an estimated 2,000 square feet, equaling a payment of about $500, Mr. Collins said.
Many area businesses, he said, are expected to pay from $300 to $500 a year.
The business improvement district is to generate a little under $1.4 million in its first year, with close to $500,000 coming from collected taxes and $900,000 from city funding.
In its first year, the proposed self-governing business improvement district hopes to:
— Contract for weekend sanitation services. The city's services are only provided Monday through Friday.
— Enhance security to give "the feeling you are safer when you are walking around the Grove," Mr. Collins said.
— Hire off-duty police officers and private security personnel to patrol the district streets on bicycles.
— Fine-tune the tenant mix by identifying the types of businesses of interest to local consumers.
— Plan special events and market the Grove and businesses within the outlined district.
Mr. Collins said he hopes business improvement district plans for a cleaner and safer Coconut Grove will lure in new businesses and anchor them, because business retention is vital to the Grove's economic growth.
Mr. Collins, expected to be executive director of the formed district, said the district hopes to run with a 19-member board including about nine property owners and a small staff to ensure that the bulk of the money is invested in local business, not salaries.
Details of management and staff salaries are not yet ironed out.
City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones inquired about business participation from the West Grove.
Mr. Collins responded that in talks with West Grove property owners, not enough were interested in paying the tax and participating in the improvement district.
But overall, commissioners seemed pleased about the proposed district because of the benefits it could bring to the Grove's commercial core.
"Here you have a perfect opportunity to take additional money to improve infrastructure and quality of life for those who live, work and play there," said commission Chairman Joe Sanchez. "There are a lot of empty businesses in Coconut Grove because the economy is bad; this is a step in the right direction to bring vitality to the area."