Reminder Assistant Editor
WESTFIELD While cities like New York have 55 Business Improvement Districts (BID) to enhance the overall look and quality of their business sectors, the city of Westfield is only the third BID to be established in Massachusetts as it is slowly transforming downtown into a colorful vision of landscape architecture.
Since the Westfield City Council voted last year to form the BID, over 198 businesses have become a part of the non-profit organization, according to Lisa McMahon, executive director of the Westfield BID.
In order for the City Council to even consider a BID, a petition had be filed with signatures of 60 percent of property owners representing 51 percent of the assessed valuation in the proposed BID, according to the BID Operations Plan.
The BID has formed a strong and aggressive campaign using the slogan, "The District Westfield.It's the New! Downtown." Their logo of an existing lantern located on the island adjacent to the Westfield Athenaeum reinforces the BIDs mission to enhance the historic sites and existing properties within the downtown.
"We provide the same baseline services as the city but we add that extra layer," McMahon said.
According to McMahon, the services provided to BID members include cleaning parking lots, sweeping the streets, gum removal from the sidewalks and the watering of plants by the Clean Team. Maintenance and landscaping teams also worked on spring cleaning and filled 54 hanging baskets with flowers as well as whiskey barrels and terra cotta planters.
BID members are also able to call when immediate services are needed such as graffiti removal, and trash pickup, McMahon added.
"Before the BID organization it was almost a daily ritual that we'd get a phone call regarding the cleanliness of the lots," Michael Kosinski, chairman of the Off-Street Parking Commission in Westfield said. "BID has filled potholes and been above and beyond in making those lots as professional looking as possible."
According to McMahon, the BID in Westfield begins at the Green and branches out in every direction from there. The BID extends up Court Street to Noble Hospital, down South Board Street to the Boys and Girls Club, from the Green to East Main Street to the Stop & Shop and TD Banknorth, and finally from the Green down Elm Street to Orange Street.
In 2006, after the BID was formed, a certified letter was sent out to each of the businesses within the BID perimeters, McMahon said, and business owners had 30 days to opt-out of BID membership, otherwise they were automatically BID members.
"The fact that so many property owners decided to make this commitment speaks volumes," she said. "My hope is that we do such a good job that businesses want to join down the road," she said.
Kosinski stated that he was skeptical of the BID at first but that they have made a believer out of him.
"I didn't know how it was going to work and now that I understand their structure and focus it's nice to see there is something taking care of the core," he said.
BID is funded by membership fees paid by the business owners, which is based upon the value of their properties, McMahon said.
Currently McMahon stated that she is looking at grants to provide additional funding for BID to complete projects like tree planting.
The Westfield BID is governed by 15-member Board of Directors comprised of various profit and non-profit organizations, she added, which have work to develop the marketing campaign, logo and upcoming website.
According to Chris Lindquist, a BID board director, and director of the Westfield Athenaeum, one of the key goals of BID is to attract businesses to the downtown area and to provide an environment where existing businesses can thrive.
Lindquist added that the first year of any BID is really a development year but that there are many plans in the works for the future such as changing the banners on the light posts wit the BID logo, new signage, lighting and the creation of a website.
"We want to create a safe and clean environment for people to come shop, live, eat, work and dine," McMahon said.