Denver Partnership Revitalizes Downtown Business District
The Downtown Denver Business Improvement District (BID) is downtown Denver's property owner-funded management organization, which has invested more than $30 million since 1982 for the maintenance and development of the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver. The BID funding is used to enhance basic City services, such as district-wide security, beautification, marketing, and economic development programs that help to provide a clean, safe and vibrant downtown environment on the 16th Street Mall. The Downtown Denver BID also works with the City and County of Denver and the Denver Urban Renewal Authority to support projects that revitalize the downtown area, encouraging new business development, investment, and tourism in the City. For its tremendous success in downtown revitalization and beautification, the City of Denver was awarded the Downtown Outstanding Achievement Award by the International Downtown Association in 1998.
Definition of a BID
A BID is a distinct geographic area in which enhanced municipal services - including security, maintenance of streets and sidewalks, district management, economic development, and marketing - are financed through annual tax assessments on privately owned commercial property.
Relying on public/private partnerships, BIDs are an effective way for property owners to improve the public environment and economic health of urban areas. Typically formed through local ordinance, BIDs enhance - and do not replace - clean and safe services already provided by local governments and agencies. BIDs also ensure that the standards for existing services are met.
BIDs are a common tool in the management of urban areas. Currently, more than 1,000 BIDs exist in the United States.
History of the Downtown Denver BID
The Downtown Denver BID originated in 1982 as the 16th Street Mall Management District (MMD), formed by the City and County of Denver to maintain the 16th Street Mall. One of the longest urban pedestrian and transit malls in the nation, the 16th Street Mall is lined with shops, cafes, trees, office buildings, hotels and housing.
In 1991, Mayor Wellington E. Webb convened the first Downtown Summit to strategically define the issues and solutions to downtown revitalization and redevelopment challenges. The MMD, the Downtown Denver Partnership, and Denver Urban Renewal Authority all participated in the Summit and provided input on improving downtown areas. In 1992, the Downtown Denver BID was formed because the 10-year charter for the MMD had expired, requiring the MMD to reorganize its business district and reevaluate funding and service needs.
With the approval of downtown Denver's commercial property owners, the BID was formed and the district's boundaries were expanded to its current 120-block area, making it one of the largest BIDs in terms of land area in the nation. Its boundaries include 2.2 million square feet of retail space and more than 23 million square feet of office space in the City.
The BID is supported by an assessment on privately owned commercial property within the district boundaries, which extend for four blocks in all directions from the 16th Street Mall. Assessment levels and the allocation of services are based on a property's land area, five percent of its building square footage, and proximity to the 16th Street Mall. Currently, 309 property owners in the BID pay an average annual assessment of $6,681 for membership. The median assessment is $980.
Since 1982, downtown Denver property owners have contributed approximately $30 million to keep Downtown Denver vibrant and active. The BID's annual budget last year was $2.2 million. The budget is approved by the City and County of Denver, and is audited by an independent CPA firm.
BID Organizational Structure
The BID provides property owner leadership and advocacy that works closely with the City and County of Denver on dozens of issues, including security, graffiti removal, alley cleaning and capital improvements.
The BID board of directors, which is appointed by Mayor Webb and approved by the Denver City Council, represents a broad range of interests and areas of downtown Denver. The seven-member board includes a large property owner, a small property owner, a representative from both lower downtown and upper downtown, a retail business owner, an office building owner and a vacant land owner. Each director serves a three-year term and may be reappointed for one additional consecutive term.
The BID board of directors convenes monthly to discuss issues of concern to the BID's operation. Its meetings are open to the public so that residents can be informed about the work of the BID in improving downtown Denver and provide feedback to the BID.
The mission of the BID is to provide an enhanced level of services on the 16th Street Mall. Since its inception in 1982, the BID has contracted with the Downtown Denver Partnership, Inc. - a non-profit business organization that promotes and markets downtown Denver - to manage day-to-day operations. In January 1999, the BID also contracted with a maintenance company to perform daily cleaning operations on 17th Street between Larimer Street and Broadway. These services are funded by a special assessment on 17th Street property owners and managed by the BID. The program represents an investment of over $3 million by the City and County of Denver in streetscape and lighting improvements on 17th Street. Under this contract, the following services are provided daily on the 16th Street Mall:
In addition, the following services are performed on both the 16th Street mall and on 17th Street:
The contract with the maintenance company includes provisions for performance requirements. All reported litter, graffiti, and overflowing trash receptacles must be cleaned up within one hour of receiving complaints. In addition, all litter, trash, and graffiti must be cleaned up by 6 a.m. each business day. BID staff regularly inspects the district to ensure that contract performance requirements are being met. BID representative Yvette Freeman states that these performance standards ensure that the downtown business district is free of litter, graffiti, and other types of blight at all times.
Keep Denver Beautiful, a local affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, Inc., included the Downtown Denver BID area in a citywide volunteer cleanup effort. This event was conducted as part of the KAB's newly-established "Great American CleanupÔ," conducted in Denver between April 22 and June 5 this past year. During this cleanup, nearly 4,800 volunteers picked up more than 300 tons of bagged litter.
Keep Denver Beautiful also supports the Downtown Denver BID by staffing a hotline number for reporting graffiti. Each week, this hotline responds to an average of 150 calls. Year-to-date, 924,268 square feet of graffiti has been removed citywide. On average, approximately a quarter of graffiti reported is removed from the Downtown Denver BID area.
In addition to these cleanup activities, beautification efforts, and enhanced services, the BID is working with the City, youth groups, property owners, and other interested parties to identify possible sites for a skateboard park near downtown Denver. The BID is also planning for the redevelopment of Skyline Park, a downtown 3.2 acre park in need of physical improvements and landscaping. These projects will add to the beautification of downtown Denver and provide additional incentives for residents to visit the downtown business district.
The Downtown Denver BID has significantly enhanced the cleanliness of the downtown area since its inception, attracting new business development and lowering crime in the 16th Street Mall District. Since 1990, 49 vacant buildings have been redeveloped and more than $179.5 million has been invested in public improvements to the district. Just in the last year, the BID has also reported an 11.3% decrease in reported crimes in the district. According to public surveys, residents are reporting additional visits to the downtown area for reasons other than business, including attendance sporting events and concerts, shopping, and dining out.
After Denver's economic collapse in the mid-1980s, the revitalization of Denver's downtown was seen as critical to rebuilding the area's economy. Through the effective partnership between the Downtown Denver BID, the City of Denver, Keep Denver Beautiful, and volunteers from the community, downtown areas have been significantly improved by beautification projects and a pro-active and consistent response to litter, graffiti, and trash removal, all of which works to create an attractive business district. This partnership has helped to attract investment and spur economic development in the City, and to create a clean, safe environment that has both enhanced tourism and created incentives for residents to once again move into the city and do business in downtown Denver.
For more information, please contact:
Downtown Denver Partnership
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352