Columbus City Council to Vote on 10-Year Renewal for Business Improvement District

Columbus City Council to Vote on 10-Year Renewal for Business Improvement District

By Kirsten J. Barnes

The Columbus City Council will vote to renew the Business Improvement District, which will then stay in effect until Dec. 31, 2034.

The district, which covers approximately 17 blocks, has been in existence for 20 years, and having received a request for renewal by more than 51 percent of the property owners, the Council is considering renewing the measure for another 10 years.

Under the B.I.D. the city is allowed to assess a 2.5 percent property tax on all the property from roughly Front Street to Veteran’s Parkway. The area has an estimated total property value of $176,460,470 and is expected to generate $956,798 for Uptown Columbus B.I.D., Inc., which uses the funding to provide extra services for the businesses. 

The extra money pays for additional safety, maintenance, marketing, business recruitment and retention, and special events in addition to those already provided by the local government.

Ed Wolverton, president and CEO of Uptown Columbus, said the program has been in place since 1999. 

“It provides extra cleaning and safety services,” Wolverton, who added most people refer to the safety and security ambassadors as the “purple people.”

According to their records, during 2023, the five clean team members removed 418 tons of litter, trash, and debris, along with 839 graffiti tags or illegal posters. They work from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. seven days a week.  

Additionally, eight safety and security ambassadors completed 3,939 security checks with storefront businesses and individuals. They work 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. and as late as 11 p.m. on weekends, escorting people to their cars, and interacting with the homeless, panhandlers, and loiterers.

“This is a proactive effort by Columbus to focus on keeping downtown businesses competitive with malls and other shopping areas,” Wolverton said.

To renew the ordinance, 51 percent of the property owners had to sign a petition, and the same number of property owners could dissolve it through a petition.

Not all businesses were on board at first.

George Saad has run On Time Fashion on Broadway since 1980. He didn’t sign the first petition or agree with the 2.5 percent property tax increase.

Still, he says he sees the difference.

“They keep some bums away from the area and that helps,” Saad said.

According to the ordinance, the program protects and maintains the existing investment by creating a clean, safe and friendly environment to dine, shop, live, and work.

In addition to the “purple people,” the funds are used to hire off-duty officers who work from 6 p.m. until as late as 3 a.m. seven days a week to help with the dinner, theatre, and bar crowd. 

The fee is also used for maintenance, marketing, business recruitment and retention, and special events in addition to those already provided by the local government.

Unlike the readily visible safety services, the funding covers some things that are not as easily detected, such as graffiti removal, illegal postings and handbill removal, sidewalk and curb cleaning, sidewalk pressure washing, sidewalk weeding, and trash and debris removal. 

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