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Downtown BID Promoters Say They've Reached Halfway Point

 

Promoters of a proposed business improvement district in downtown Covington say they have reached the halfway point.

The issue is being pushed by the Covington Business Council (CBC).

“We are happy to announce that more than 30 percent of the owners of commercial properties in downtown Covington have signed the petition to create the BID,” said CBC board president Eric Summe, who is also president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau. 

To create a BID, 50 percent of all property owners within the proposed boundaries must sign a petition in favor. Summe said the CBC's goal is to collect 60 percent of those property owners' signatures.

“City-created plans have called for the creation of a BID in downtown Covington for more than 10 years,” Summe said. “We had hoped to gather all of the signatures we needed to create a BID by the end of this month so it could start operating next year, but we’re not quite there yet.” 

“We knew that the goal of gathering these signatures in such a short period of time was aggressive,” he said. “But we set this ambitious goal because many business owners expressed to us a desire to establish a downtown BID sooner rather than later.”

A BID is a geographic area where property owners agree to pay a special property assessment for services and programs beyond what the city already provides. These services and programs are designed to enhance public spaces, assist in business retention and attraction, and ensure the economic vitality of the area. 

In March, the CBC announced a campaign to obtain the signatures needed to petition the Covington city commission to enact legislation required under state law to create the district. If the necessary signatures had been gathered by the end of this month, the BID promoters would have asked the City Commission to approve enabling legislation to place special assessments on the October tax bills, meaning that funding would have been in place to start the BID next year.

“The business improvement districts in Louisville and Lexington took years to come to fruition so its not surprising that ours did not happen in first six months,” Summe said. “The BID is not something that will be done in a day so we will continue to plug away at this initiative over time until we can make it happen.”

Nationwide, more than 1,500 business improvements districts operate in U.S. cities, including districts in Lexington, Louisville, and Cincinnati. 

“Our goal is to create our own business improvement district that will make downtown Covington a more competitive, attractive, safe, and vibrant community,” said Tony Milburn, who has been active in the effort. Milburn, who owns ten commercial properties in downtown Covington, has signed a BID petition for each of those properties.

Supporters argue that a BID would provide sustainable funding for programs and services like litter and graffiti removal, enhanced security, marketing and promotions for downtown businesses, and capital improvements in the downtown area. The BID’s board of directors would recommend these programs and services to the city commission, which would ultimately have final say.

Several City of Covington-produced plans have specifically called for the creation of a downtown BID, including the city’s 21st Century Strategic Plan, the citizen-driven strategic plan adopted in 2007, and the Covington City Center Action Plan, a U.S. Housing & Urban Development-funded plan completed in 2012. 

Last year, the CBC hired Yard & Company, an urban-growth firm, to conduct an economic development priority analysis within the city. “That study found that most Covington business stakeholders want to see improvements in the downtown area that realistically can only be accomplished or enhanced through the creation of a BID,” CBC Executive Director Pat Frew said. 

“The reality of the situation is that we need to establish a BID for downtown Covington if we want our city to compete with other cities and their business districts and dining and entertainment venues,” Frew said.  

Frew said the CBC would continue to promote the BID effort and gathering necessary signatures in future months, and years, if necessary.

-Staff report