Downtown Detroit has made great progress over the last few years. Our streets are cleaner. Most of the graffiti is gone. The clutter has disappeared. The flowers and trees are well kept. We’re gettin’ pretty pretty.
Much of that has been done by a Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) program called Clean Downtown which has been voluntarily funded to the tune of $16.5 million by a few businesses in Detroit since it was created in 2005. It could be strapped for cash after 2014. What happens now is up to the property owners.
Earlier this week the Detroit City Council approved a possible business improvement zone (BIZ) that could bring in $4 million to pay for street cleaning, landscaping and other services. It now goes to the property owners for a vote. Those ballots will be mailed out within the next two weeks.
Why do the property owners have to vote? Simple answer. The BIZ requires them to pay a tax which is a blend of property values and square footage that roughly comes out to about 10 cents per square foot. For the BIZ to move forward, 60 percent of weighted property owners must vote in favor of it. Non-profit organizations, churches and other typical tax-exempt properties and owner-occupied residences are not included. To be clear, no individual taxpayer money is involved and the BIZ is in addition to the city services.
Many think that downtown has been getting additional cleaning services than the neighborhoods. The reality is that the business community has been by and large paying for the extra services beyond its regular taxes, not the city government. The Clean Downtown program is separate from and in addition to city services. It operates 24/7 every day of the year and cleans 39 miles of sidewalks public spaces and entrance and exit ramps along the Lodge, I-75, and I-375 freeways as well as along Jefferson Ave. and the Detroit River. Clean Downtown also is the team that picks up trash from all major events downtown.
In 2013 the Clean team picked up nearly 700 tons of trash. Since it was created seven years ago the team has removed more than 3,700 tons of trash. And since 2005 more than $16.5 million in voluntary contributions from major businesses downtown have sustained the Clean Downtown program.
“These services are the foundation for downtown Detroit’s ongoing revival,” said Eric Wilson, DDP planning and development manager.
DDP says BIZ would:
- Encourage more growth downtown and ensure that services such as cleaning, security and landscaping continue despite changes in the city budget
- Increase property values, boost overall retail sales, enhance safety and give every business the opportunity to join as a single voice for downtown businesses
- Help guarantee a consistent clean, safe and inviting environment
You should know that the BIZ must be fully accountable to property owners. A board of directors made up of large and small property owners, will be established to govern the BIZ. After two years the property owners can vote to keep or dissolve the BIZ and it must be re-authorized every 10 years.
“A BIZ increases property values and gives businesses and property owners direct control over how their BIZ contributions are spent,” said Wilson, “It is a fair way to distribute the costs and benefit of services.”
More information on the BIZ proposal can be found at www.downtowndetroitbiz.com.