The Small Business Side Of The Downtown Business Improvement District

Friday, July 19, 2019
In my humble small business owner opinion or POV - #NoBID #NoSelfImposedTax #TheChattanoogaWay

Please see attached presentation that several small business women owners presented to the City Council  Tuesday in opposition to the proposed downtown Central Business Improvement Business (CBID or BID). As "non-Property Owners" in the proposed district, we have been unable to address the council during a City Council meeting when the BID was on the agenda (and after our small business hours), but we could Tuesday as part of their end of session "Recognition of Persons Wishing to Address the Council on Non-Agenda Matters".
As you are limited to three minutes, three of us split up the attached topics and added their views - Me - Keeli Crewe (area 61 gallery), Denise Reed (The Concierge Office Suites), Darin and Elea Wright (Elea Blake Cosmetics) and Rose Cox (The Palace Theater). 

Two of the Councilmen asked us to keep coming and to bring more business "tenants" - ask others to show up - as they need this side of the story.

As we've walked the district visiting other small businesses and commercial business tenants, we are consistently hearing that they thought it was voted down (the first run of the BID concept was defeated in June), were completely unaware of it, were told it was already a done deal so there is no reason to show up, or as typical of small business owners and entrepreneurs - "we are so busy with the day-to-day small business operations, limited staff wearing all the hats, we cannot leave to attend all these meetings and keep our doors open..."
Without looking at the BID more deeply and only reading what news release coverage has been published and consistent talking points from the BID perspective, they think the only services are additional beautification, sanitation, security and city ambassadors to help visitors and to move panhandlers along. (What's not to like?). And that the property owners are paying the taxes (look at your lease, standard lease language states tenants will share in a portion of the property's taxes, operating expenses and insurance - not so altruistic of property owners from that perspective considering most in favor have full buildings of tenants, or can raise hotel room rates, or residential apartment rates). 

Well if we do not block out the time to represent our side - even though we are not allowed to speak, then we may have to close our doors or relocate because we will be further taxed/priced out of the district. PS - Elea Blake first opened in the Northshore distric and area 61 gallery first opened in the Southside district.

Please note below the copied full list of "Proposed Services" - all loosely defined, top heavy on management, consulting, design, promotion and advertising of the district (CVB already promotes Chattanooga including "the district", River City Co promotes empty property within the downtown footprint, The Chattanooga Chamber promotes development opportunities downtown and all of greater Chattanooga. I recently filled one of these empty spaces within the district that had been empty for over a year without invitation from any of our economic/urban development agencies. Andd as we only represent local professional artists and craftsmen in our gallery, we contribute heavily to the local culture and uniqueness of Chattanooga to the tourist (guest) and convention industry. (Eighty percent of our sales for over 8 1/2 years have been to out-of-town guests who love collecting local.)

The BID advocates have already formed the managing agency - District Management Corporation. Also the defined area leaves out a large section of residential condominiums and townhomes, including Museum Bluffs on Cherry St and the language such as "a general description of the boundaries", "a portion", "bounded roughly",  "and primarily" are disconcerting. 

Sections from the City Council Resolution 29962 to set the Public Hearing to adopt the BID*:

C) A general description of the improvements, services, projects proposed for the district and other proposed uses of special assessment revenues within the district. In furtherance and not in limitation of the general powers conferred upon a central business improvement district by Chapter 84 of Title 7 of the Tennessee Code Annotated, and in keeping with the purposes of the Downtown CBID set forth herein, it is expressly provided that the District Management Corporation shall have the following powers as follows:
1. Maintenance and cleaning services;
2. Hospitality services;
3. Streetscape and landscape programs;
4. Communications and marketing, district advocacy and management;
5. To provide services for the improvement and operation of the Downtown CBID and to supplement those provided by the City Government, as follows:
a. Promoting and marketing;
b. Advertising;
c. Health and sanitation;
d. Public safety;
e. Elimination of problems related to traffic and parking;
f. Security services;
g. Recreation;
h. Cultural enhancements;
i. Activities in support of business or residential recruitment, retention and management development;
j. Aesthetic improvements, including the decoration, restoration or renovation of any public space or of building facades and exteriors in public view which confer a public benefit;
k. Professional management, planning and promotion of the district;
l. Furnishing of music in any public place;
m. Design assistance;
n. Consulting with respect to planning, management, and development activities; and o. Such other services as are authorized byTennessee Code Annotated § 7-84-520.
6. To enter into contracts and agreements with other persons or entities.
7. To hire employees or retain agents, engineers, architects, planners, consultants, attorneys, and accountants.
8. To acquire, construct, install and operate public improvements contemplated by this ordinance and all property rights or interests incidental or appurtenant thereto, and to dispose of real and personal property and any interest therein including leases and easements in connection therewith.
9. To manage, control, and supervise:
a. All the business and affairs of the Downtown CBID
b. The acquisition, construction and installation and operation of public improvements within the Downtown CBID; and
c. The operation of the Downtown CBID services therein.
10. To construct and install improvements across and along any public street, alley, highway, stream of water or water course in accordance with state and local laws, rules, and regulations.
11. To exercise all rights and powers necessary or incidental to or implied from the specific powers granted in this section.
12. Other proposed uses of special assessment revenue within the Downtown CBID including employing persons to perform or contracting for the performance of such services as office administration, bookkeeping, engineering and architectural services, urban planning, legal services, accounting and auditing services and other similar services.
All services to the Downtown CBID listed above shall be provided by the District Management Corporation as a service to and in support of the City or County government and such services are to be paid for out of revenues from the special assessment. In carrying out these responsibilities, the District Management Corporation must comply with all applicable provisions of laws, including Chapter 84 of Title 7 of Tennessee Code Annotated, all City resolutions and ordinances and all regulations lawfully imposed by the state auditor or other state agencies.

B) A general description of the boundaries of the district is as follows: A portion of Downtown Chattanooga bounded roughly by the Tennessee River to the North, US-27 to the West, 11th Street to the South, and primarily Cherry Street and Georgia Avenue to the East. The boundary shall extend through the centerline of 11th Street, Cherry Street, Georgia Avenue, and any other thoroughfare along its exterior boundaries as illustrated on the Map** set out at the end of this Section

* Full City Council BID Resolution Here:
** River City Document for proposed operating budget with the MAP.

One other thought or question: Is River City Company going away or lacking in funds, because all of the proposed services/projects are what they have historically provided to promote the Chattanooga Downtown footprint - Why Downtown? Live, Work, Shop & Play - in addition to previously defining all the downtown districts - Northshore, Riverfront, Bluff View, City Center (the area of the BID - except TVA, The Edwin, Unum, The Edney, Warehouse Row), MLK, and Southside - PLUS their successful programs for  public community parks and green spaces with latest endeavors in Creative Placemaking collaborating with Public Art Chattanooga. Check out the list of all of the generous downtown district beautification sponsors. 

Why propose a tax when there are so many other ways to rally the community and harness the enthusiasm of "The Chattanooga Way" (not run over it...)?

Keeli Crewe, co-owner/gallery director
area 61 gallery
The Maclellan Building, 721 Broad St.

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