With little dissent, downtown Jackson property owners approved a plan last night that would expand the Downtown Jackson Partners' Business Improvement District and maintain assessment rates at 10 cents per square foot.
Seventeen property owners attended a planning meeting at the Mississippi Museum of Art to learn about the process the 66-block business district must undergo for reauthorization. In 1996, the Mississippi Legislature passed a bill that created Business Improvement Districts and allowed cities to levy an assessment on all taxable property in those districts. The law allows for DJP to collect 10 cents on each square foot of buildings and "unimproved" real estate on properties located within the district. The district must go undergo a reauthorization process every five years.
The Hinds County Tax Collector's office collects the BID fees along with the property owner's property taxes. The city of Jackson then distributes those funds to Downtown Jackson Partners. In September 2010, Jackson City Council members renewed the district for the current year and $1,028,613 the BID generated to Downtown Jackson Partners.
The plan approved last night expands the district to the second block of the Farish Street Entertainment District, which includes Peaches Restaurant, the Alamo Theater and F. Jones Corner. The Jackson Redevelopment Authority owns the majority of the property, and Watkins Partners holds a 45-year lease on the property to develop the entertainment district.
Downtown Jackson Partners Vice Chairman David Watkins said Watkins Partners happily pays $51,814.70 in annual fees for its downtown properties, the King Edward Hotel and the Standard Life Building. He supported the BID's expansion.
"If you look at where we were in 1996 and where we are today, the difference for downtown Jackson has really been this organization," Watkins said. "The only way for us to have the resources we need to do what we need to keep downtown Jackson clean and safe is to go through this BID."
Watkins added that the Jackson Redevelopment Authority, a quasi-governmental agency, owns the majority of the Farish Street property, and would not be required to pay fees for the BID under the expansion. He said he is working with lawyers and has offered to pay the 10 cent per square-foot fee to receive DJP's services.
Tanya Scott is managing partner of Ceva Green, a proposed $70 million mixed-used development on State Street at a former abandoned Cadillac dealership that is located in the BID. She said she and her father, Corbett Scott, purchased the property six years ago, to coincide with the Old Capitol Green development, and have struggled to get the city to assist with infrastructure needs for the proposed development.
Scott questioned DPJ's role in helping developers work with the city for infrastructure needs.
Downtown Jackson Partners President Ben Allen deferred questions about the city's infrastructure to city of Jackson Director of Public Works Dan Gaillet, who was not present. He also said that massive developments take time and more resources.
Downtown Jackson Partners will now submit the expansion plan to the Jackson City Council, and the council must set a public hearing for the plan this summer. After the public hearing, all business owners will have the opportunity to vote through mail-outs. A 70 percent majority is required for district's reauthorization. Property owners who choose not vote will qualify as a "no" vote.
Downtown Jackson Partners representatives spent the majority of the meeting reporting on its services and progress in downtown Jackson.
The organization provides businesses with 24-hour security patrols, trash removal, year-round landscaping, and promotional services in addition to promoting downtown real estate and providing additional funding to the Jackson Police Department Bike Patrol and city strategic planning and economic development efforts. This year, Downtown Jackson Partners will spend 30 percent of its estimated budget of $1,016,930 on marketing and development, and another 30 percent on safety, they said.