Downtown Business Improvement District closing in on 10-year renewal

The Downtown Business Improvement District is seeking a 10-year renewal to continue its mission, which covers everything from entertainment to economic development. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

Citing years of success and economic growth, the Downtown Business Improvement District is looking to extend its duration for another 10 years, and on Wednesday it received unanimous support from members of the City Council.

“By state law, BIDs are created and renewed by petitioning property owners,” said Linda McCarthy, executive director of the Downtown Missoula Partnership. “You need to do that every 10 years and have a minimum of 60 percent of the land area to support creation or renewal by signed petition. We are in the midst of that petitioning process.”

The district was first created in 2005 and renewed for 10 years in 2010. Roughly 70 percent of the district’s properties have signed the petition requesting an extension to 2030.

In simple terms, the district promotes the health, safety and prosperity of downtown visitors and businesses, though advocates say it does much more. It provides garbage collection seven days a week, plows the alleys, chips ice from storm drains and hangs holiday decorations.

But the BID also serves as the district’s economic representative. It recently led an update to the Downtown Master Plan, which has leveraged an estimated $800 million in new development over the past 10 years.

Nearly 190 new businesses have opened during that time, McCarthy said.

“We’ve been tracking investment, which has been significant over the past 10 years,” McCarthy said. “This year, we’ve seen 35 new businesses open up in downtown Missoula. We’re growing that base of business and employment.”

The Downtown Business Improvement District helped spearhead the recent update to the Downtown Master Plan, which is set for adoption and will guide the planning and development within the district for the next 20 years. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current file photo)

In the last fiscal year, assessments collected by the BID for the improvements and services it offered totaled $381,700. It’s funded by roughly 700 properties within the defined boundary and includes 446 distinct properties.

With the renewal process under way, property owners have a right to protest. If the protest threshold isn’t met, the City Council will hold a public hearing and renew the district. So far, the district has won wide support from the downtown community.

“Without the BID, you wouldn’t have seven-day garbage and the removal of recycling. You wouldn’t have any of the economic development or planning processes we’ve taken on in the private sector,” McCarthy said.

“Our property values would potentially decline. You might have a decline in those interested in being downtown, both as a business and a consumer.”

Other services, like wayfinding and holiday decorations, would also fall back on city government, requiring additional funding or termination. The work conducted by the Clean Team would also fall by the wayside.

“I’m very supportive of this,” said council member Gwen Jones. “My sense is, this has been a thing that works well, and we need to continue it.”