Frequently asked questions
What is a Business Improvement District?
A Business Improvement District (BID) is a formal entity that allows property and business owners to come together to make a collective contribution to the improvement of their commercial district.
BIDs are modeled after common area maintenance (CAM) fees in shopping malls. In addition to their rent, mall tenants pay an extra fee to maintain and beautify the public areas in the malls and provide things like “free” parking, security, lighting, and marketing for the mall as a whole.
Why create a BID?
Each BID creates a plan to address its specific areas of concern but generally a BID is formed to create a cleaner safer, and more attractive business district; ensure a steady and reliable source of funding for supplemental services and programs, which they can often leverage for additional funds; be able to respond quickly to the changing needs of the business community; build potential to increase property values, improve sales, and decrease the number of vacant properties; and help the district to compete with nearby retail and business centers.
What do BIDs do?
BIDs deliver a range of services over-and-above normal City services and invest in the long-term economic development of their districts. BID services include public space maintenance and greening (sidewalk litter removal, planter maintenance), public safety enhancements (security cameras, supplemental police coverage), business attraction and assistance, marketing and promotions (special events, district branding and advertising), capital improvements (lighting, directional signs, street furniture), and visitor assistance.
How are BID programs and services paid for?
Funds for BID programs and services are generated from a special assessment paid by the benefited property owners directly to the organization that manages the BID’s activities. (Note: many leases have a clause that allows property owners to pass the BID assessment on to their tenants.) Because they are authorized by the City of Philadelphia, the assessment levied by the BID becomes a legal obligation of the property owner and failure to pay can result in the filing of a lien. The Fishtown Area BID Steering Committee has already determined that owner-occupied single-family homes and condos WILL NOT PAY an assessment. Please see below for more information regarding assessments.
What is a BID assessment and how is it calculated?
A BID assessment is a fee that each property owner pays to support BID operations. The BID allocates the cost of its services by having each property pay their proportionate share of the budget, which can be determined by an objective standard such as the property’s share of the total assessed market real estate value of the entire district. BIDs can supplement their budgets from other sources such as grants, sponsorship income, or other income-producing activities. Some BIDs in Philadelphia do not impose an assessment on residential properties, or only assess income-producing or multi-unit residential properties, and Fishtown would use this model ensuring that owner-occupied single-family homes and condos would NOT PAY.
Based on the total budget, the Fishtown Area BID is currently using a rate of approximately .0018 (.18%) x a property’s Full Market Value (includes any abated amounts), however while properties are still under appeal of their 2020 assessments and new parcels become assessed by OPA the rate may fluctuate slightly. But as the full budget is still divided among all properties, assessment amounts for individual properties don’t tend to change drastically. Please note that owner-occupied homes and condos would be exempt. To find your Full Market Value, please visit the OPA Website.
What other BIDs operate in Philadelphia?
There are currently 14 BIDs in Philadelphia. The first BID was Center City District, which was created in 1990. Other BIDs in operation are Aramingo Shopping District, Chestnut Hill District, City Avenue District, East Passyunk Avenue BID, Germantown Special Services District, Manayunk Special Services District, Mayfair BID, Mount Airy BID, Northern Liberties BID, Roxborough District, Old City District, Port Richmond Industrial Development Enterprise, and South Street/Headhouse District.
Will City services be reduced if the BID is providing similar services?
No. When BIDs are authorized, the City enters into an agreement with the BID and commits to maintain the level of services that would be provided if there were no BID in place.
Who oversees the BID?
BIDs are democratic in that the same people who benefit from what BIDs offer are the ones who plan, manage, and finance the BID. Each BID is independently governed by a Board of Directors comprising of property owners, business people, and other individuals, as spelled out within the bylaws that govern the BID organization. In the proposed bylaws of the Fishtown Area BID, a minimum of 80% of Board Members would need to live, work or own property in the BID boundaries; there would be representatives of small businesses, the entertainment sector and the Fishtown Co business association, which has funded the creation of the BID; each main corridor would be represented by a minimum of one board member; elections will be held annually after the first year; and all three overlapping Councilmembers would serve. Please see the draft FABID bylaws here.
How is a BID formed?
Forming a BID requires widespread support among property owners and commercial tenants who are fully informed about the proposed program. To create a BID, a core group of property owners and businesspeople will need to invest substantial time and effort to develop the BID plan and persuade their peers to support the BID.
In Philadelphia, the Community and Economic Improvement Act now governs the process for creating BIDs. Under that act, BIDs are authorized by City Council and subject to a public process that includes at least two public hearings and notification of all property owners and tenants within the district. The two hearings are followed by a 45-day objection period. If more than 1/3 of property owners within the district who would be subject to the assessment (either by number or by the value of their property) oppose creation of a BID by writing to the Chief Clerk of City Council, the effort is defeated.
What steps has the proposed Fishtown Area BID already completed toward creating a BID?
In July 2018, the Fishtown Co business association, Fishtown Neighbors Association and New Kensington CDC co-hosted an Intro to BIDs Community Meeting at The Fillmore. More than 70 attendees listened to a presentation on BIDs and participated in an interactive Q&A Session. From that group and the Fishtown Co Board, a Steering Committee was formed and began meeting in September 2018. For meeting minutes please click here.
After evaluating the areas where a BID could be possible, the Steering Committee established a study area and a Business Improvement District Survey was created to find out what services are most needed for the district. 529 people completed the survey and the results of the BID Survey guided the next step of the process, which was to create the BID District Plan. The plan includes important items like what services the BID will offer, boundaries, annual budget, and draft by-laws of the governing organization. While it is still a working document and will need to be reviewed by the City’s Law Department before it is finalized, we’ve included the draft of the BID Plan, which is ultimately fed into the Ordinance to create the BID (see below).
The plan was recently presented at a Community Meeting. One small boundary change on the north side of West Girard west of Front Street resulted from that meeting, however no other changes have been made to date.
What happens next?
The plan will be presented at one more community meeting for additional review and opportunities to make adjustments. If the BID Plan is found to be supported by the property and business owners (both commercial and exempt residential) in the boundaries, then the Steering Committee will ask City Council to introduce the Ordinance to create the Fishtown Area BID in June.
After summer recess, there will be a Public Hearing in the Rules Committee of City Council preceded by a packet mailing with the Final BID Plan and Bylaws sent to all property owners and tenants 30 days in advance. The Plan and Bylaws will also be posted here (see above for draft bylaws). There will be an opportunity to offer testimony during the hearing and all owners and tenants will have 45 days following the hearing to send a written objection. If 33.4% of the eligible properties vote against the BID, either in value or number, the BID will not be established. If successful, the BID would begin services on January 1 of 2020 for a 5 year term, when the whole process starts over again to see if the BID should continue providing services.
For more information on BIDs and the BID creation process, please see the City of Philadelphia’s Starting a BID in Philadelphia.
FISHTOWN AREA BID + FISHTOWN CO:
If the FABID is formed, the Fishtown Co business association will continue to provide opportunities for businesses and commercial property owners not just exclusively in the FABID boundaries but in the entire Fishtown area to take advantage of marketing opportunities, special events, advocacy, public space improvements and other projects of benefit to the local business community. And businesses located in the boundaries of the FABID will be eligible for all Fishtown Co member benefits with their FABID assessment payments. The partnership Fishtown Co and FABID will allow us to bring more resources to our area for our members, property and business owners, residents and the entire community. For more information on Fishtown Co please visit our website.