Leaders of the Kennett Square Historic Kennett Square Main Street program are looking at a program that could enhance the uptown business district and help continue its revitalization funding overall.
The program, called a Business Improvement District or BID, involves dedicating a several-block area in the commercial district of a municipality to special services like sweeping, tree planting and event organizing. For those services, business owners in that district would pay an annual fee.
To improve understanding of the concept, the public in general and business owners in particular are invited to a free presentation on the concept of a Business Improvement District, on Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Genesis HealthCare Corporate office lower level, at 101 E. State Street.
Historic Kennett Square Main Street Association Executive Director Mary Hutchins said Kennett Square is eligible for this presentation because of its ongoing participation in the Pennsylvania Main Street Program. Currently, she and her board are organizing events and carrying on activities to help attract business and tourism to the town. But this year, the state funding runs out for Historic Kennett Square, and establishing a BID seems to be a direction that would ensure the continuation of the agency's work.
"We are being fiscally responsible by having these people come in and elaborate on the study," she said.
Hutchins stressed that the meeting planned for next week in no way obligates the borough or its businesses to participate. It merely explains that a study will be done to see if Kennett Square is an appropriate location for a BID.
BIDS are active in large and small towns that range in size from West Chester to New York City. They provide such services as organizing special events, sweeping, marketing and communications.
In order for a BID to be established, the local jurisdiction prepares a plan that lists all the properties that are to be included. The approval process requires the active casting of 40 percent against the project, according to a document issued by the state.
Hutchins said if the BID is approved, it should be up and running in about 12 to 18 months. She is enthusiastic about the prospect of establishing the program because, if it's successful, it would continue the successes of Historic Kennett Square over the past years. In addition, participation makes Kennett Square eligible to receive certain revitalization grants.
In West Chester, the BID project has been going on for five years and has just received approval for another five years. The BID district extends over 244 parcels and 16 square blocks.
West Chester BID Director Malcolm Johnstone said 27 percent of the business owners asked objected the first time, but on the second time around, only one voted against.
"We're an advocacy group [for the businesses]," he said. BID is involved in economic restructuring, advocacy, downtown cleanup, planting flowers and trees, sweeping and organizing special events.
Business owners pay on a sliding scale depending on the size of their operations, he said, with the average annual fee being about $275. "Some pay thousands. The smallest is $5," Johnstone said.
In West Chester, the BID program has been enthusiastically received, and members participate actively because they are financially invested, he said. And with grant money obtained through the program, "Every dime they put in, they get back two dimes," he said.
Hutchins said the major funding for Historic Kennett Square exclusive of the state grant is now the annual Brewfest and rent. "We own [the Center] building, and it provides some income as well," she said.