The Oklahoma City Council will be considering approval of a new downtown Business Improvement District plan that would expand the current district's boundaries and have some property owners paying for maintenance on a major downtown streetscape project.
The City Council accepted a city engineer report regarding the proposed plan at its Nov. 30 meeting, and a public meeting on the district was set for Dec. 21. Following the public hearing, the council may vote on the district's approval.
The downtown Oklahoma City BID was approved by the city in 2001, in response to a petition by downtown property owners seeking a self-imposed property assessment to pay for enhanced maintenance, marketing and improvements to the area.
The current BID raises almost $1.4 million annually, but it is set to expire at the end of March.
The city, property owners and business owners have been meeting since 2008 on ways to renew the BID, and on Nov. 4, Downtown OKC Inc. submitted a request for the new BID's creation.
Under state law, BIDs cannot be renewed; new ones must be created in their place.
There are several differences from the current BID in place, such as an expansion of the district's boundaries to the east, west and north, changes in what types of services can be offered through BID money and how funds in different downtown character districts (such as Automobile Alley and Bricktown) are divvied up.
The new BID would also free up Bricktown to hire a private contractor to maintain its canal, rather than the city, which is the current arrangement.
"(The BID) is really pretty significant," said City Planner A.J. Kirkpatrick, who has worked on the proposed BID plan. "MAPS gets a lot of the attention, but I argue that the BID is the engine that keeps things running."
In areas affected by Project 180, a massive downtown streetscape redesign paid for through the Devon Tax Increment Financing District, an extra assessment will be made to pay for maintenance of Project 180 improvements as they begin to develop, Kirkpatrick told council members.
Kirkpatrick told the council that some character districts expressed concern in paying for street-level improvements to other areas, specifically Automobile Alley, and Bricktown's concerns over paying for Project 180 improvements that are to be done in other locations, so a separate pot of money will be created for those subdistricts' street-level improvement funds.
The engineer's report is essentially the operating plan for the life of the Business Improvement District, said Downtown OKC Inc. President Jane Jenkins, who worked closely with the city, business and property owners affected by the plan.
One other major change, which required an amendment of state law, passed by the Legislature last year, allows the BID to expand by getting the approval of a majority of property owners in the planned expansion area, rather than having to petition the entire BID district and the planned expansion area, Jenkins said.
"We are going to continue to deliver the services we've always delivered," Jenkins said. "I think (the changes) are very important. I think that the changes we've made are a reflection of what we've learned in managing the BID we have. I think they're wise changes, well-thought-out changes and they will make a difference in downtown Oklahoma City for the good."
Concern that Project 180 improvements could drive up the BID rates caused planners to put a cap on how much assessments for street-level maintenance could grow " capping it at $5.92 per foot of street frontage, Kirkpatrick said.
Mayor Mick Cornett said the proposed BID is a major step forward for the city.
"This is really showing the growth of the BID process. This is not an extension, this is a whole new BID," Cornett said. "We're saying where are we now and how are we going forward. This is a very big step."
Former BID Advisory Board president Chuck Wiggin said the first BID worked well, but after 10 years of experience, those involved have learned more about what works and ways to improve upon the existing model.
"Although the current BID was working well, we heard a lot of constructive ideas about ways to improve it," Wiggin said. "The new bid offers greater flexibility than expiring one, giving the ability to adapt to needs of downtown and constituents." "Clifton Adcock