JANESVILLE

Property owners in downtown Janesville will get a chance to chew on a proposal for a business improvement district for the first time since 2008.

Downtown Janesville Inc. is unveiling a proposed BID that in its first year would gather special assessments of $100,000 t0 pay for downtown beautification projects, storefront tenant recruitment and snow removal, among other things.

The proposal will hit City Hall in the next few weeks, Downtown Janesville member Dave Marshick confirmed Wednesday.

Downtown Janesville has sought input on the BID and has held informational meetings for downtown property owners over the last several months.

A plan commission hearing on the proposal is slated in early September, and a comment period will roll out through September and into early October before the city council decides on the plan, Marshick said.

The BID would need approval from the council, and a BID board of directors would have to be appointed before it began to collect special assessments.

Marshick said the board would be appointed by City Manager Mark Freitag, but it would operate independently of the city.

First, the BID will have to pass muster with a clear majority of downtown property owners who would be charged annual special assessments.

Under state law, property owners within the proposed BID district boundaries have a 30-day period after an initial city hearing to comment on the proposal.

During that period, if owners whose property assessments represent more than 40 percent of the total BID valuation sign a petition against the BID, the city would not be able to create the district.

The BID proposal does not include an “opt-out” clause. That means if the city approves it, properties within the BID boundaries will be required to pay special assessments.

For smaller properties downtown, the assessment amounts to a few hundred to several hundred dollars tacked onto property owners’ annual tax bills, according to a proposed set of assessments.

Only properties located in the boundaries of the BID would be charged the special assessments. Residential and city-owned properties, plus some tax-exempt properties located within the BID, would be exempt, according to a city map of the district.

In 2008, the last time a group floated a proposal for a downtown BID, a group of more than 100 downtown property owners shot down the plan by circulating a petition against it.

Marshick said the latest BID proposal is different in a few ways.

For one, he said, Downtown Janesville reached out to dozens of property owners, stakeholders and city officials to give owners information on how the BID proposal was shaping up and to get feedback on how to structure it.

Marshick said during planning of the BID proposal, his group sought feedback from owners who had supported and opposed the failed 2008 plan.

“We said, ‘This is for you guys,’” he said. “The plan we started with was nothing like the plan we came out with.”

In recent months, about a dozen downtown stakeholders of various backgrounds helped craft a proposal that broke the downtown into three zones, Marshick said.

The three zones represent the downtown’s geographical inner core along Milwaukee and Main streets, its outer core to the north and south, and its outlying northern and southern edges, according to a map outlining the proposal.

The zone plan establishes sets of assessments that taper off for owners of properties located farther away from the central core along Milwaukee and Main streets. That’s because much of the BID’s focus is on the central parts of downtown.

“The BID zone idea came directly from the stakeholders we worked with,” Marshick said. “We tried to craft a plan that took it into account that not everybody is going to get the same benefits based on where they’re located.”

The proposal, of which The Gazette obtained a copy, shows that the BID is expected to bring in $100,000 in its first year.

That would fuel about $20,000 in snow removal and downtown beautification projects. It also could help owners of vacant storefronts find tenants who fit their needs.

BID funds also would help market downtown events that Marshick’s group hopes will draw thousands of people. Those events could attract revenue to help fuel the BID.

The BID also would pay for a part-time manager who would promote downtown events and work with downtown properties to help them fill vacancies, Marshick said.

He likened the BID manager’s role to that of a shopping mall manager.

He said the BID’s operations and use of funds would be evaluated by the board in an annual budget process.

The economy and the vibe downtown have shifted since 2008—the last time a BID was proposed in Janesville.

Private investors have sunk millions of dollars into downtown properties on the Main Street and Milwaukee Street corridors on the east side of the river.

Meanwhile, the city is launching the first phase of major riverfront improvements through its ARISE plan.

Marshick said that leads him to believe the timing might be better to propose a BID district now than it was in 2008.

“The climate downtown is very different now than it was in 2008,” he said. “There’s just more momentum.”

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