City Should Allow Self Managed Special Service Districts – Article by Thatcher Imboden

Thatcher Imboden, past president of the Uptown Association, writes an article on the management of Special Service Districts in Minneapolis:

The Problem
Minneapolis business districts struggle to provide cost-effective, responsive district services, like snow removal from sidewalks, holiday lighting, graffiti removal and more.

The Solution
The City should allow business districts to have the option to self-manage the services provided to the City for three primary reasons:
1.    Local management can be more responsive than the current city managed system
2. Local management can be more cost effective
3. Local management can provide better financial transparency and budgeting

You can read the full article here:

MN Business Improvement Districts: Rochester Convening

Please join the Great Cities Collaborative for a presentation and tour of the Rochester Business Improvement District-BID.  Learn about the successful implementation and outcomes of the Rochester BID.

Date: December 3, 2012

 Time: 8:15 am – 5:00 pm (The bus will leave promptly at 8:15 am and will return by 5:00 pm)

Location: The shuttle will leave from the Target parking lot on Hiawatha and Lake Street.  Please park on the south side of the lot nearest Lake Street. 

Click here to register!


8:30-10:00 am: Travel Minneapolis-Rochester (Yes! The shuttle has WIFI)

10:30 am-12:00 pm- Introduction to the Rochester Business Improvement District

12:00 pm: Lunch and Q/A

1:00- 3:00 pm: Guided Tour of the Rochester Business District
3:00-5:00: Travel Rochester- Minneapolis

 Additional Information:

All are welcome. Business district leaders, businesses, elected officials are strongly encouraged to attend. RSVP required. Space is limited! Register today!

Breakfast rolls and coffee will be provided.

Lunch will also be provided.  Please let us know of any dietary restrictions.

Check out the great work Rochester Business Improvement District is doing:

For more information about BIDS or the Great Cities Collaborative visit our website at

 Click here to register!  or paste this URL into your browser:

The Great Cities project is a collaborative research project between NE CDC, SPARC on Rice Street, the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition, University United, the West Bank Business Association and Lake Street Council. The project investigates the implementation process and impact of Business Improvement Districts on commercial corridors and the community. For more information about the collaborative or this event, please contact Jamie Schumacher -

Upcoming presentation on BIDs and an update on our work!

We’re excited to announce that we’re hosting a panel presentation!

The Great Cities collaborative is inviting community members, stakeholders, and interested parties to learn about the Business Improvement District model as well as the work they are doing to install this model in the Twin Cities metro area. The group will be giving a panel presentation followed by a question and answer session.


  • Carol Jean Becker, Overview of Business Improvement Districts
  • David Feehan, Business Improvement District operations
  • Area Presentations (directors of each org will speak to challenges & progress)
  1. Joyce Wisdom – Lake Street Council: BID Challenges & Benefits: working with existing Special Service Districts
  2. Jamie Schumacher – Northeast Community Development Corporation: Budgets & Change; Investigating the Arts District & targeted marketing
  3. Matthew Ides – SPARC on Rice Street: Transition and leadership; working with City Councilmembers
  4. Brian McMahon – University United: Transit Improvements and Creating an Industrial Business District
  5. Erin Jerabek – West Broadway Business and Area Coalition: Stakeholders & the importance of marketing along commercial corridors
  6. Jamie Schumacher – West Bank Business Association: Working with Institutions and installing a West Bank Improvement District

There will be a Q&A session for participants following panel presentation

Location:     The Southern Theater
1420 Washington Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55454
Date:        Tuesday July 17th, 10:00am – 12:00pm
Cost:         Free

The Great Cities project is a collaborative research project between the NE CDC, SPARC on Rice Street, the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition, University United, the West Bank Business Association and Lake Street Council. The project investigates the implementation process and impact of Business Improvement Districts on commercial corridors and the community. For more information about the collaborative or this event, including speaker bios, please contact Jamie Schumacher –

To download a pdf version of this spreadsheet, please click here:

Updates and News


The past few months have been very busy for our collaborative. A few updates for you are below.

Welcome West Bank!

We’ve been meeting with the West Bank Business Association regularly since last year, and have been collaborating with their board about Business Improvement District implementation. The goal is to put the West Bank Improvement District in place this summer!

You can find out more about the work on the West Bank and some outreach materials here:

Welcome Dave Feehan and Carol Becker!

After a year of researching the pros and cons of installing a Business Improvement District, as well as studying the implications for our respective areas, we’re ready to forge ahead. We received funding from the McKnight to contract with a expert to move the process forward. We’ve decided to work with Carol Becker and Dave Feehan, who come with a balance of practical experience and a wealth of knowledge on BIDs throughout the states. (You may remember a study we posted about a few months ago with a link to Carol’s 2010 US BID Census report.)

Carol and Dave will be working with us to outline with the BIDs will look like in each area, as well helping us craft the budgets, ordinances, and petitions.

We’re looking forward to moving forward!

More updates to come.

Fargo investigating a BID

Here is a link to an article about interest in starting BID in downtown Fargo. Interesting things going on in the Midwest!

RFP for Consultants

The Great Cities Collaborative has issued an RFP for consultants.

The organizations listed above have received funding from the McKnight Foundation to explore the possibility of creating Business Improvement Districts (BID) and/or Parking Improvement Districts (PID) along the five commercial corridors they represent in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Each organization will need to prepare and circulate information about the advantages and disadvantages of BIDs and PIDs, and will function as a catalyst and resource engaging property owners and stakeholders in an informed conversation about the benefits of creating this model of cooperative management along the commercial corridors.

This is open until February 15, 2012.

For more information and a complete view of the requirements, please see the GreatCities_RFP. (pdf)


How a BID might work on Lake Street

All property owners inside a designated district are assessed a fee as part of their property tax payment like the Special Service Districts, but the money is pooled and managed by a board of property representatives who ensure that sidewalks stay uniformly cleaner, that greenery is planted and cared for, that snow and graffiti are quickly cleaned, and that vendors, festivals and other activities are coordinated. The districts might also employ uniformed ambassadors (on bikes) to offer tourist information and provide extra “eyes on the street”.

How much money might be raised within a roughly 140-block area running from Mississippi River Blvd to Lake Calhoun, and 31st Street to 27th Street?

Businesses themselves will drive the agenda and the district’s accountability. Services — and costs — may be greater within the commercial district nodes and lessen toward the periphery of those nodes.

Can Lake Street compete for new jobs and new residents, visitors and shoppers against downtown and suburban lifestyle centers and corporate campuses that provide a lush and pristine atmosphere? The answer is yes. Lake Street has authenticity, cultural attractions and good restaurants on its side. But to fully compete, it must maintain and build the nice atmosphere that people expect.

More feet on the sidewalk means more dollars in the cash register

Focus on the pedestrian atmosphere has grown sharper as Lake Street has undertaken a conversion of sorts. Transportation planning has begun to recast Lake Street as less an auto-only eight-hour district to a place that emphasizes transit, walking and biking as well as cars. The aim is a nearly 24-hour Lake Street. But to get there the walking atmosphere must continue to be vastly improved.

The theory works this way: beautiful sidewalks draw more people; more people discourage illegal and questionable activity; retail revives, and success feeds on itself.


The clearest need is for central governance. Property owners are rightly frustrated when, for example, a tree dies on their sidewalk and no one knows who’s responsible for replacing it — let alone watering it. Now, there’s no clear accountability for Lake Street’s sidewalks. The city, Park Board, Metro Transit and property owners each point to one another to take responsibility. A Business Improvement District would end the confusion over management and give Lake Street a better chance to compete.

Why can’t the city do this job? The answer is complex. Start with the confusion over who owns what: city-owned or owned privately. It’s a mish-mash. Budget cuts and union rules make it hard for city workers to do a good enough job. The Park Board is responsible for most trees and plants, but the same shortcomings apply. Even if more money could be found to shift to Lake Street, the other city wards would scream foul. The only recourse, really, is to tap Lake Street businesses — as other cities have already discovered.

Parking is the Beginning and Ending Experience of the Commercial Corridor for Most of your Customers

Lake Street Council’s goal is to identify the key opportunities to improve that experience.

Our first and foremost assumption is that vacant parking spaces in a fully leased project do not benefit anyone and have a negative impact on the built environment.

Lake Street Council is in the process of identifying parking lot ownership from Mississippi River Blvd. to Lake Calhoun.  Key areas of opportunity are 27th & Lake, and Bloomington & Lake.

We are studying the opportunities and challenges to shared parking. The Urban Land Institute has done significant work in this area and we plan to tap into their expertise. In order for shared parking to be most effective, it is important that all spaces be conveniently located and accessible to all users. We will measure walking distances from parking areas to destinations and we will explore various techniques of managing parking to encourage the sharing of parking, including parking charges. This exploration will cover the pros and cons of customer parking charges and employee parking charges.

To create a parking district, our shared parking analysis will require projecting parking needs for our specific combination of businesses in each of these areas, including surveying existing conditions and discussing parking management strategies with all the stakeholders, to ensure that shared parking can occur as assumed in our study phase. We assume that these conversations will result in additional recommendations for directional signage and improved design of our pedestrian system.

Additional funding will be required and may include municipal bonding, additional metering or increased cost, CDBG funding, MNDoT, and TOD funding. This commercial corridor initiative that is expected to result in the establishment of a parking district will also require the business community to contribute.

While we are exploring Parking Improvement Districts to manage a perceived parking problem in specific areas, the districts when established should pro-actively shape increased development in a more positive way.

Sparc in the Press – Nonprofit helps create St. Paul’s largest urban farm

Launched by Sparc, a nonprofit business assistance group on Rice Street, the new North End Urban Farm and farmers’ market covers 3.2 acres and hosts four separate growing organizations in neighboring plots. They include an urban farmer with dreams of creating an outdoor performance space on the site, a Hmong group helping 11 Southeast Asian women learn how to take their products to market, a volunteer-driven community garden overseen by a 63-year-old Vietnamese woman, and a young Frogtown couple who sell their vegetables to the public on a subscription basis.

Read the full article at the link below.

Sample Ordinances

Here are a few sample ordinances for reference.

The MA Statutes on BIDS: MA Statute

City of Chicago Special Service Area Number 18: Chicago Sample Ordinance

For the West Colfax Business Improvement District: Denver Ordinance #598