May 3 - 10, 2006
By MIKE MCGARRY, The Hartford News Staff Writer
Well, some say we don’t want to pay. Simple as that, the excuse is that taxes are high and maybe getting higher. Some investors feel they are doing their duty just by investing in a city… any city.
Did we lose you? O.K., we are discussing a business improvement district (BID) for Downtown Hartford and part of Asylum Hill. Over 1000 cities nationwide have used the BID model to add juice to downtown areas, local examples include Manchester, New Haven and Stamford.
As with any major change in Hartford – after all, we are an Insurance City and risk is verboten – the idea of the district has taken years to sort out. Personnel changes, companies come and go, mergers affect policy, so keeping a quorum together is tough. The big stumbling block is that somebody has to pay for the cleaner streets, extra safety, beautification and promotion of the affected areas. It really is politically impossible for any city to provide the city services needed for a successful downtown (other neighborhoods would demand the same). So, a special taxing district is needed.
The answer to the naysayers is that a bit of water will raise all the ships. A clean, safe, active downtown will result in higher property values, and a city that people want to work (or live) in.
Attracting employees is a tough job once they have seen Boston or New York’s lively lifestyle - have you ever been to Downtown New Haven on a Friday Night?
The total cost to property owners is one mil rate - adding up to $1.5 million for the project. Considering the total cost of city government approaches $500 million, this relatively small amount could throw off significant benefits to just about everybody.
This column constantly rants about the grand list and that increasing such is the only answer. By creating the BID, hopefully, additional businesses will be drawn to a lively, safe and clean city. Lots of developable land is available - especially in the western part of downtown. With the BID as one of our development tools, maybe the pieces will fall together to raise that grand list - and, hopefully ease that business tax burden. It seems like a good investment.