By definition, a Business Improvement District (BID) “is a public/private partnership in which property and business owners elect to make a collective contribution to the maintenance, development, and promotion of their commercial district.” Typically, they’re implemented in neighborhoods that need an economic boost, so Soho would seem like an unlikely candidate.
Ever since the neighborhood’s artist lofts were replaced with designer boutiques, residents have struggled to deal with the “mall-ification” of their home. And when the Soho Broadway BID was presented, local activists opposed it, citing that commercial activity was already bursting at the seams, and it was the residents who needed assistance. Now, after nearly four years of debate, the BID is moving forward, but with a decreased budget and an equal commitment to both residents and businesses.
The BID will encompass the five-block Broadway corridor from Houston to Canal Streets. Not only did the budget decrease from $700,000 to $550,000, but the Board is made up of 50% commercial property owners and 50% residents. Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, told Crain’s that “SoHo is a neighborhood of residents. A lot of people don’t realize that, so we needed some sort of control so that the SoHo BID just wouldn’t run amok and make it overly commercial on us.”
ACE workers via ACE
The most major issue residents hoped the BID would address is trash. Since big-name stores like Bloomingdale’s, Zara, and Uniqlo have moved to Broadway in recent years, locals have dealt with overflowing trash heaps. Progress is already underway, as the BID is working with the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless (ACE), a group that provides cleanup service jobs to those transitioning back into the workforce, and 30 new trash receptacles have been ordered.
Other BID projects include monitoring street cart and food cart vendors and commissioning a traffic study that could result in a possible redesign of key intersections. Mark Dicus, who began as the BID’s executive director in October, said “We’re not trying to attract more people here or more businesses. Our focus is to help make the SoHo Broadway corridor more accessible for the people who live here and the visitors who come here, and improve the experience.”
Neighborhoods : Soho