DDA OKs $59,200 BIZ Grant for South University

A $59,200 grant to support the establishment of a business improvement zone (BIZ) for the South University area has been approved by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board. The action came at the board’s July 3, 2013 meeting. The money would be allocated only at specific milestone points.

A BIZ is a self-assessment district that can be established under Public Act 120 of 1961 by agreement of a sufficient number of property owners in the district – to generate sufficient funds to pay for additional services not provided by the city. If it’s established, the South University Area BIZ would be the second such district in downtown Ann Arbor. In 2010 such a district was established for a three-block stretch of Main Street, between William and Huron streets – to provide sidewalk snow clearing, litter pickup and poster removal. [See Chronicle coverage from 2009: "Ann Arbor Main Street BIZ Clears Hurdle"]

The Ann Arbor DDA also provided a grant to assist with the formation of the Main Street BIZ, voting on April 1, 2009 to award $83,270 to defray various costs associated with the formation of the BIZ. Those included accounting, auditing, operations and legal services.

At that time, DDA board members reflected on the fact that they did not necessarily want to be signaling – through their support of the Main Street BIZ – that the DDA would be inclined to support all other subsequent efforts to establish business improvement zones in other areas of the downtown. Partly to address that concern, the board asked that the Main Street BIZ produce a “blueprint” for the formation of a BIZ, which could be used by other groups to help navigate the lengthy required process.

At a May 29, 2013 meeting of the DDA’s operations committee, South University Area Association executive director Maggie Ladd and consultant Betsy Jackson pitched the grant to the committee. Jackson, president of The Urban Agenda Inc., told the committee that while the blueprint was a useful fill-in-the-blank document, it was important to have someone with sufficient expertise to fill in those blanks. Jackson was also the consultant hired for the Main Street BIZ.

At the DDA board’s July 3 meeting, board member Joan Lowenstein also described the considerable legwork that’s required for deciding on the method of assessment for any specific BIZ.

According to the DDA board resolution, South University property owners are contributing a total of $25,000 toward the start-up costs.

This brief was filed from the DDA offices at 150 S. Fifth Ave., Suite 301 where the DDA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report of the meeting will follow: [link]