Downtown Watertown Business Owners Weigh BID Creation

Downtown Watertown Business Owners Weigh BID Creation

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Jody Shuler is the owner of EyeCrave Optics in downtown Watertown. When he heard about the idea of creating a Business Improvement District, or a BID, at a small business summit last week, he thought it was a great idea.

"Sign my name tomorrow, today. If you had the paperwork ready, I'd sign it right now," he said.

What is a Business Improvement District? Essentially, businesses or property owners in a district would be charged an extra tax for services above and beyond what the city can offer. Extra services like cleaning up streets, security, economic development and marketing. 

"It provides a funding source for activities in the downtown area that otherwise wouldn't happen," said Don Rutherford, CEO of the Watertown Local Development Corporation.

Rutherford's agency is also a proponent of creating a BID. The WLDC started the block parties downtown and has invested $25,000  in them. He says a BID would be able to put on more events like that to bring people downtown.

"With a BID, you have paid staff that it's their job to market your downtown. Their funding is paid through the BID, they're the ones that would then organize the blocks parties, they would do the beautification, the flower planting," he said.

Shuler says he thinks having someone in charge would set a standard for the district and he wouldn't mind paying an extra tax for the services and benefits that come with it.

"I think the ideas even that the Syracuse BID has with extra policing. Maybe some extra services with having events and festivities in downtown those are great," he said.

Other business owners like Matt Strader of Cam's Pizzeria say they don't know much about the idea.

"It's intriguing; before I would want to commit to something like that, I'm kind of naturally skeptical about most everything I hear, but I would want to know more," he said.

If downtown Watertown was to form a BID, the businesses would need to decide they wanted one, submit a petition to the city and then the city council would have to approve it.

The President of the Downtown Business Association says if there were to be any movement towards a BID, the logistics of how it would be funded and what it would offer would need to be fully understood by the business owners.

The Downtown Business Association plans to talk about the idea of a Business Improvement District at its next board meeting in December to see if its members have any interest in starting one here. 

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