Business

Downtown Lexington district would assess property fees

Bob Estes, owner of Parlay Social and president of the Cheapside Entertainment District Association, said of the proposed business district, "I'm for whatever we can do to maintain the momentum we have going in downtown."
Bob Estes, owner of Parlay Social and president of the Cheapside Entertainment District Association, said of the proposed business district, "I'm for whatever we can do to maintain the momentum we have going in downtown." ©2011

The Downtown Lexington Corporation is proposing a downtown business improvement district that would assess property owners a fee and use the funds to market downtown and do other projects to increase the central business district's economic development potential.

"A management district would function like a mall association where, if you have a business in a mall, part of your rent goes into a pool that provides joint services that benefit everyone," said Renee Jackson, president of the DLC, a membership organization with downtown property owners, business owners and residents.

"We hear time and again that downtown needs marketing. These funds could go into a marketing campaign, but also for many other projects to boost the vitality of downtown," Jackson said. "Marketing is a top priority, but not the only one."

The DLC proposes an assessment of 10 cents per $100 of property valuation for property inside the boundaries of the proposed district.

Boundaries would generally be from Broadway on the west, to Indiana Avenue on the east. Vine Street and, in places, High Street would be the boundary on the south; Short Street on the north, though it would bump out to pick up Church and Barr streets.

In that area are about 400 pieces of property and more than 300 property owners.

The DLC has been getting feedback from downtown property owners for several months, Jackson said. "I believe it would be very beneficial to downtown. When managed properly, they are successful. You rarely, if ever, see one terminated."

A petition will be circulated in the next week or so among property owners. One-third must sign for a district to be established.

It would then need approval of Urban County Council.

"This whole idea is based on property owners' willingness to do this," Jackson said. A downtown improvement district was first discussed in Lexington more than a decade ago, but it was never brought to the petition stage.

Bob Estes, president of the Cheapside Entertainment District Association, said Thursday he had not heard all the details of how a district would function but tentatively favored the idea. "I'm for whatever we can do to maintain the momentum we have going in downtown."

Estes owns Parlay Social, at 257 West Short Street, a prohibition-themed lounge with handcrafted cocktails and live entertainment.

Already, "a lot of people have contributed a lot of their own funds to promote their business. A vibrant, robust, exciting downtown is what everybody wants, and if this would help, I'm willing to give it a try," he said.

New Orleans was the first city to establish a business improvement district in 1974. Of the 75 largest cities in the United States, fewer than 10 do not have similar downtown districts.

At the DLC's annual awards ceremony on Monday, Phil Scherer, a board member of the Louisville Management District, will be the guest speaker. He will talk about benefits to Louisville's downtown with an improvement district that has become a tool for economic development.

The LMD has assisted members with investment decisions, conducted market studies for businesses and investigated development opportunities, according to its Web site.

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