Boca Raton considers improvement district for downtown businesses
An an effort to find new ways to pay for downtown revitalization, Boca Raton may turn to downtown businesses to cover the costs of items such as promotions, marketing, parking and shuttles.
That goal could be met through a business improvement district where downtown businesses agree to band together and be assessed for the benefit of the entire area.
“It’s a program by which you can pool resources,” Assistant City Manager Mike Woika said. “It’s kind of a way to take advantage of economies of scale.”
“Any encouragement that would help the downtown businesses right now is sorely needed,” said Derek Vander Ploeg, an architect and member of the advisory committee. “It’s been a difficult task to organize a merchants association.”
The proposed steering committee would hash through ways businesses would be assessed to cover the cost of proposed improvements and prioritize those needs. If the city eventually decides to move forward with an improvement district, it would be subject to a vote of all the affected businesses.
The idea for an improvement district emerged after a council goal-setting session last year that said the city needed a strategy to pay for downtown needs that didn’t come under the purview of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency.
“We’re just in the very beginning discussions of what to do with it, how to use it,” Vander Ploeg said. Other cities that have set up improvement districts include Coral Gables and Coconut Grove.
Vander Ploeg said one of the difficulties Boca Raton faces in trying to come up with a solution is meeting the needs of the various downtown interests.
“The businesses themselves are divided into two relatively disorganized camps, the property owners and the merchants,” he said.