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Business Improvement Districts in the Twin Cities: Opportunities and Challenges.

Gronewold, Sara.

Business Improvement Districts are a form of public/private partnership in which property and business owners elect to pay an additional assessment to be used for maintenance, development, and promotion of their commercial area. The have gained popularity across the United States over the past thirty years as a powerful means for neighborhoods and commercial districts to invest in and revitalize their commercial and residential interests.

West Broadway Business and Area Coalition is part of a larger group, the Great Cities Collaborative, whose main objective is testing the feasibility of implementing BIDs in Minneapolis and St. Paul with the eventual goal of establishing neighborhood BIDs where appropriate. In order to accomplish these goals, a better understanding of how national economically comparable neighborhood BIDs operate was necessary. Secondly, understanding local economic development policies that support or impede BID establishment was also crucial. Finally, taking a closer look at Minneapolis’ Downtown Improvement District allowed us to identify opportunities and challenges in replicating its success.

My research indicates that a wide range of neighborhood BIDs can be very successful. One of the benefits of the BID model is how flexible it is, and this flexibility supports many types of urban development, including low and median-income commercial corridors. The primary challenge in Minneapolis is a pattern of misinformation and lack of education of the differences between Special Service Districts (the current model) and Business Improvement Districts by many, if not most, relevant stakeholders. In order to move forward while addressing these challenges, I have four recommendations:

  • Begin a continued education campaign to inform stakeholders and clarify key concepts.
  • Work with West Bank Business Coalition to assist in making Cedar-Riverside BID a success.
  • Continue to prioritize dialogue with relevant organizations and city partners.
  • Establish timeline to accomplish monthly and yearly goals.

By focusing on education, awareness, and meeting individual and collaborative goals, Minneapolis can prove hospitable to BIDs, and commercial corridors such as West Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis will benefit from their implementation.

Publication date: 
Conducted on behalf of West Broadway Business and Area Coalition. Supported by Neighborhood Partnerships for Community Research (NPCR), a program of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota.
22 pp.
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