by Karen E. Culp
A unanimous vote by the Special Business District Advisory Board starts the process to replace the district with a Community Improvement District and governing board in about six months.
The advisory board voted at its Jan. 20 meeting to accept a proposal from the Urban Districts Alliance, presented by UDA board president Jim Anderson and City Manager Tom Finnie, to create a Community Improvement District, perhaps beyond the bounds of the current district, in Springfield's center city.
Legislation enacted during the 1998 Missouri legislative session enables the development of Community Improvement Districts in Missouri's political subdivisions. Community Improvement Districts, or CIDs, are self-taxing entities that use money collected from an assessment to pay for improvements in the district.
The CID is similar to a Special Business District, also a self-taxing district that uses the money for improving or maintaining the district. In translating the district from an SBD to a CID, center city officials have said they hope to expand the size of the district, which is now concentrated in the immediate downtown area. An expanded district could take in the government plaza, Southwest Missouri State University or the Commercial Street area.
Where the district is drawn, what assessment it collects and what services are provided will be determined after information is gathered from property owners in the district, Anderson said.
"At this point, nothing is really determined except that we will go forward with the district," Anderson said.
The process will be led by a steering committee, three members of which will come from the existing SBD board, "in order to make that transition," Anderson said. The steering committee will be appointed fairly quickly, once the SBD receives approval for its proposal from the City Council. Council will hold a first reading on the SBD bill Feb. 1, Finnie said.
Funds will come from SBD's budget to hire a consultant, Brad Segal of Progressive Urban Management Associates. Segal will charge $26,000 to consult with Urban Districts Alliance and SBD to form a district.
Segal's time line, as presented in UDA's presentation to SBD, shows that a petition drive to form the district will begin in April or May. The steering committee, which Anderson said will likely be made up of about 12 to 15 people, will develop an operating plan for the district to be in place by August.
"We're using August as the drop-dead date because we have to get the information in by then in order to begin collecting the assessment on Jan. 1, 2000, which is our goal," Anderson said.
Until now, the SBD's primary concern has been maintaining public parking downtown; that was its objective as set down by city ordinance when the district formed. The new enabling legislation offers a chance for the district to expand both its size and its services in center city.
"What the district will be or what services it will provide, be it marketing services or maintenance-type services or both, will really be determined by the steering committee. That committee is really critical in this project," Anderson said.
Though UDA presented the proposal to the advisory board, Lance T. Brown, executive director of UDA, said the idea was coming from everyone in center city.
"We don't want people to look at this as UDA's proposal. This is something that is good for everyone in downtown and that has a lot of support from those people who have invested in center city," Brown said.
Finnie emphasized the need to act now on the recently enacted legislation, while center city development is on a roll.
"The time is now for us to get moving. We've got to keep this momentum of activity up," Finnie said.
Finnie said he expects $50 million worth of investment in center city in the next two years, attributing that to such projects as the Hammons Exposition Center, Civic Park, ice rink, and development projects by Allen Casey (the Sterling Hotel renovation), and a group of investors who are renovating the Seville Hotel.
"I don't think $50 million is far-fetched at all. I fully expect that much activity. I think the projects that have started down there will build an interest from other folks. We're already getting several calls from people who are seriously interested in investing in downtown," Finnie said.
Following council action, Segal will be retained as a consultant, and the steering committee will be formed, Anderson said.
"Today (the Jan. 20 SBD meeting) was really a critical first step. We couldn't be more pleased at the support for this proposal," Anderson said.
In other action, the SBD board will gain three new members: Allen Casey, Bob Horton and Laura Derrick will be sworn in before the Feb. 1 council meeting.
A petition drive to form the Community Improvement District will begin in April or May.[[In-content Ad]]
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