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Washington Square West Debates Specifics of Improvement District

May 6, 2014 Category: Uncategorized

With municipal services such as street cleaning still in short supply, even Philadelphia’s most prosperous neighborhoods are looking for new ways to improve themselves.

The Washington Square West Civic Association (WSWCA), which covers the area between Seventh and Broad and Chestnut and South streets, is getting ready to gather public input on a Neighborhood Improvement District (NID). The way NIDs generally work is that a fee is levied on all property owners and the revenue goes toward neighborhood programs such as cleaning and street improvement. The civic association is still working out exactly how its NID would work.

City Council must also pass an ordinance to allow for the creation of a NID, but gathering community support is the first step — as two recent failed attempts in Callowhill and around Temple University have shown.

The civic association completed a feasibility study on a NID in the fall of 2013, with the help of the local economics firm, Econsult Solutions. The results of this study recommended that the NID focus on five areas:

  • Safety
  • Greening
  • Cleaning
  • Promotion of local businesses
  • Educational and cultural enrichment

This proposed NID has been the subject of much internal debate, according to Washington Square West Civic Association (WSWCA) meeting minutes.The civic association did vote in favor of setting up a NID at its February meeting, with eleven yea votes, one nay vote and two abstentions.  The one nay vote came from the civic association’s president, Meg Berlin.

Since then there have been a number of concerns that have cast some doubt on the proposal.

At a closed-door meeting on April 1, members of the civic association expressed their concern that the neighborhood did not fit the definition of a NID due to its heavy mix of commercial and residential properties. The board appears to be working out exactly how this would affect how the NID draws revenue from the community. Would all property owners be charged a fee, just business owners, or both?

From our Partners

The boundaries as voted on at the July 2013 civic association meeting run from 7th to Juniper Street and Locust to South Street. However, the District will not include Lombard Street, since residents and businesses already pay into the Center City District (CCD), and will not include the 900 and 1000-blocks of South Street.  Broad Street is also not included because properties along there also pay taxes to the Center City District.

The next step in the process will be a public meeting in June, said Meg Berlin, the president of the civic association. Berlin said the organization will draft a survey reaching out to property owners to gather their thoughts on a NID. The idea for the survey was proposed by Paul Levy, president of the Center City District.

Further Information

“Starting a Business Improvement District in Philadelphia,”  a report by the Commerce Department and Drexel University

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