2012 Annual Report of the West Chester Business Improvement District
Presented to West Chester Borough Council on February 20, 2013
In 2000, the West Chester Business Improvement District Authority (BID) was established by the West Chester Borough Council to provide community and economic development with a focus on downtown revitalization. In the first years, the Borough's support was 62% of the BID budget. By 2012, the Borough's support had been adjusted to 22% of the BID Budget demonstrating that the BID has expanded its capacity without an added burden to the Borough.
Today, the BID provides the Borough with the highest value since its inception. In 2012, for every dollar invested by the Borough into the BID, there was a fiscal return of more than $40 in tax and parking revenues compared to 1999.
Partnerships are vital to the BID. As the public sector continues to shrink, it will be the private sector that will pick up more of the investment. The objective will be to maintain a balance of leadership between elected officials and corporate investors that govern the activities of the BID.
The BID Board of Directors more than ever appreciate and depend on the support Borough Council, clearly downtown's most valuable partner. Without such support, the BID cannot continue to be an effective program.
Click here to see the mission and vision statements, meeting schedules, and roster of the Board of Directors.
Achievements of 2012
Beyond the regular activities and programs conducted by the BID, 15 programs, projects and accomplishments were started, expanded or completed in 2012:
1) Attained $50,000 Keystone Façade Grant funding
The Keystone Façade Grant Program is designed to stimulate private investment in properties that will foster an attractive environment and preserve the architectural heritage within the West Chester BID. The Pennsylvania DCED has allocated $50,000 to the West Chester BID for 2013/2014 Keystone Façade Grant funding.
2) Completed the Melton Center Swimming Pool & Sustainability Plan
Working with the Melton Center Board of Directors with the understanding that redevelopment of the public outdoor pool at the Center would improve of the quality of life within the neighborhood and community, the BID secured a matching grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development and completed a $25,000 study to determine the feasibility and sustainability of such a project.
3) Repositioned DowntownWestChester.com to highlight events
As a result of an item from the Mayor's 2011 Community Conversation to develop a website that listed all the events that occur in the Borough, DowntownWestChester.com was enhanced to include the listings of public events on the homepage. The outcome was a 13.3-percent increase in traffic for 2012 compared to 2011 (180,250 vs 159,054 visits). 189 events were posted on the website in 2012. The BID website will continue to serve as a clearing house of local events.
4) Produced and launched first promotional parking video of West Chester
Malena Martinez, a downtown business owner, volunteered her talent and time to produce a downtown parking video to inform downtown visitors of how to have a pleasant experience when parking downtown. It is found at DowntownWestChester.com.
5) Completed a Downtown Retail Study conducted by Urban Land Institute
The BID secured a matching grant from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) and completed a Retail Study by a panel of regional experts conducted by the Philadelphia branch of the Urban Land Institute. The study provides recommendations for effective strategies to enhance the retail sector of downtown.
6) Completed the second edition of the West Chester Visitors Guide
Working with Main Line Today Magazine, the BID developed a downtown Visitors Guide that is used to enhance visitors' experience. 25,000 are distributed through Main Line Today subscriptions while the rest are in the rooms of the Hotel Warner and select visitor centers.
7) Completed the inaugural year of West Chester Fig Magazine
The BID sponsored four editions of West Chester FIG Magazine, a hyper-local, direct mail promotional magazine plus a social media component that positions downtown West Chester as an up-scale shopping experience.
8) Continued to expand community service hours for Clean & Green services
The BID has successfully positioned itself as the community service agency-of-choice among recalcitrant WCU students and other youth needing to perform penance for their sins. The downtown was blessed with 1,800 hours of community service (up from 1,250 hours) performed by 51 reformed souls. This would not be feasible without BID supervision of the program.
9) Successfully saw the opening of Hotel Warner
After ten years of planning, downtown saw the opening of Hotel Warner in August 2012, the first hotel to open downtown in over 100 years. The BID now is an active marketing partner to ensure an expansion of tourism marketing that will generate more than 40,000 person-visits per year (100+ per day).
10) National Accreditation
Working within a new program developed by the National Main Street Center and National Trust for Historic Preservation and administrated by the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, the BID was Nationally Accredited for 2012. The accreditation recognizes that the BID is providing "outstanding organizational performance in sustaining a Main Street effort."
11) Application for Keystone Main Street designation
While the BID was recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Economic & Community Development (DCED) as an Achiever Program, the current administration has reclassified the status of local programs. The BID has thus applied for Keystone Main Street designation and has met or exceeded the requirements of such a designation.
12) Expanded Business Attraction
Daniel Price, the BID's Clean & Green Manager, now has the added responsibility of program management of Business Attraction and is working as a full-time employee. A brochure promoting West Chester as a place to work and live called Looking to the Future is in the works to be published.
13) Reprinted Brochure
The West Chester Downtown Guide, the BID's longest and most successful promotional piece, has been updated and reprinted for 2012/2013. It is expected to reach 100,000 potential visitors each year.
14) Bicycle map
The BID, with a project spearheaded by Ray Ott, and working with BLUER and Chester County Cycling Coalition, has produced the West Chester Bike Map that provides suggested safe bike routes for the Borough and surrounding area.
As required by law, the BID presents an audit to the Borough once it is completed. The audit for 2011, completed in April of 2012, utilized the accounting practices as required by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. The completed audit is considered clean and unqualified.
Goals for 2013
The BID understands that it's vitally important to adapt to the changing economy with its opportunities and increasing competition. The goals for 2013 are:
- Enhance partnerships that promote activity in the downtown.
- Work with Pennsylvania Cable Network to develop a TV show
- Develop Super Week in cooperation with Borough Parks & Recreation
- Develop Historic Preservation Day in May
- Enhance Internet presence
- Support and monitor First Block development guided by the Retail Study
- Implement a National Marketing Campaign
- Conduct an outreach program to downtown stakeholders
- Support the Think Shop Buy Local program of the Chamber of Commerce
- Conduct a downtown banner replacement program
- Establish an active relationship with WCU Live
- Support the Uptown Theater Alliance objective to establish a theater downtown
- Provide assistance to complete the Church Street Improvement project
- Achieve designation with the state as a Keystone Main Street program
- Establish a downtown Visitors Center
Building Permits in the BID for 2012:
- 125 (25-percent of total for the Borough)
Total estimated cost of new construction for 2012:
- $3,780,628 (14-percent of the total for the Borough)
Total permit fees within the BID:
- $72,476 (23-percent of the total income for the Borough)
Number of retail/restaurant businesses that opened in 2012: 11
Number of retail/restaurant businesses that have closed in 2012: 3
- Net gain of 8 businesses have opened.
By-the-numbers since 2001
- $3,381,404 : total program budget 2001-2012
- In 2001, the Borough supported 62% of the BID budget
- In 2012, the Borough is supporting 22% of the BID Budget
- $1,222,000 : total funding in grants
- $562,000 : grants for Elm Street projects
- $400,000 : grants for Wayfinding Program
- $110,000 : grants for Facade Enhancement Program
- $ 85,000 : grants for marketing
- $ 55,000 : grants from West Chester Downtown Foundation
- $ 10,000 : grant from Preserve America
- 500,000 : Downtown Guide brochures distributed
- 802 : articles in local and national publications
- 1,640,000 : website visits
- 200 : net new businesses since 2000 (over 500 from under 300 in 2000)
- $480,000 : Program costs of the BID since 2001
- $103,000 : support Swingin' Summer Thursdays
- $174,000 : flower beautification
- $203,000 : downtown sidewalk cleaning
Downtown's contribution to the local tax base
There are 268 property parcels supporting more than 500 businesses within the BID.
The assessed value totals $100 million. This provides the Borough with about $700,000 annually in property taxes plus Earned Income Taxes, Business Privilege taxes, and building fees.
Parking revenues in the Borough increased from $821,447 in 2000 to $3.3 million budgeted in 2012.
Downtown's support of community values
Historic Preservation has been a strong ethic guiding the practices of the BID which is a member of National Trust for Historic Preservation and an accredited member of National Main Street Center from which the manager is Certified in Professional Downtown Management.
1) In 2005, West Chester received the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Government Initiatives Award by Preservation Pennsylvania through action by the BID.
2) In 2006, the BID applied for and received the Distinctive Destination by The National Trust for Historic Preservation and was also designated as a Preserve America Community by the National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
3) In 2008, West Chester was selected as one of the first Classic Towns of Greater Philadelphia by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.
4) The BID applied for and administrated over $150,000 in Facade Improvement Grants funded by Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development.
5) The BID was an inaugural member of Heritage Travel, a for-profit subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
6) The BID wrote the grant application to Preserve America through the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission to fund the West Chester Comprehensive Historic Preservation Plan in cooperation with the Borough Council.
7) The BID participated in the This Place Matters program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the Chester County Community Foundation to raise awareness for the Lincoln Building.
8) Through the West Chester Downtown Foundation, created by the BID, the West Chester Preservation Awards was started which recognizes local historic preservation individuals and activities.
About the BID
The West Chester BID was created in 2000 by Borough Council when they approved a Five Year Plan that would provide economic development with a Main Street program for downtown. It was renewed in 2005 and 2010 with an added Elm Street program for community development in the Southeast Neighborhood. The BID replaced the Borough's Commerce Department when the director resigned. Funding for the Commerce Department ($60,000) was transferred to the BID since the BID was providing services equivalent to the Commerce Department activities. In 2004, an additional $25,000 was added to the annual BID contribution in an agreement whereby the moratorium on feeding parking meters in December was revoked and new parking meters were added to Gay Street providing increased revenue to the Borough.
- $3,381,404 : total program budget 2001-2012
- $ 860,000 : total borough contribution 2001-2012
BID Budget Summary for 2012
$256,348 : BID assessment to property owners
$ 85,000 : Borough grant
$ 43,650 : grants, fees, misc. income
$385,498 : total income
$157,400 : personnel
$ 56,372 : operations
$ 86,350 : marketing
$ 80,488 : program services
$380,609 : total expenses
BID Budget Summary for 2013
$258,445 : BID assessment to property owners
$ 85,000 : Borough grant
$ 65,201 : grants, fees, misc. income
$408,646 : total income
$152,328 : personnel
$ 60,472 : operations
$116,450 : marketing
$ 76,250 : program services
$405,500 : total expenses
Why the BID?
Establishing the BID fulfilled the item in the Borough's Comprehensive Plan stating support for downtown revitalization. Through the PA Department of Community & Economic Development, the BID is able to attract state grant funds for the Elm Street program and downtown facade improvement that supports historic preservation. This supports the policy recommendations stated in the Economic Benefits of Historic Preservation Activities in Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, July 2011): "Historic preservation has been shown to have a positive impact on economic development efforts at the state and local levels. It is not simply a matter of aesthetics or quality of life, but also a tool for neighborhood stabilization and community revitalization that should be connected to broader strategies concerning land use, smart growth, and job creation." It further states "economic benefit accrues at a local level. Rehabilitation activity creates local jobs and generates local tax revenues while heritage tourism imports spending dollars."
How the BID works
The West Chester BID is a value-based, rather than cost-based, organization that works to position the Borough as a destination for businesses to locate and customers to visit. Through the efforts of the BID, enhanced market value has increased revenue for the Borough through property taxes, parking revenues, earned income tax, building permits, and business licenses. The BID is the only agency qualified to seek certain state funds for community and economic development. To date, the BID has attracted over $1-million for downtown and the southeast neighborhood.
How healthy is the BID as an organization?
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a legislative agency of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, funded An Evaluation of Pennsylvania's Main Street Programs performed by Chad Kimmel, Ph.D and Joel Schoening, Ph.D of Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania (October 2011). The study's primary dependent variable was the Program Sustainability Score which represents sustainability in organization, leadership, financing, and staffing. When West Chester was compared to other Main Street programs in Pennsylvania, it ranked first out of 60 programs with a score of 93.33 (out of 100) and the only community to rank in the top decile. The mean score for all programs was 62.85.
Why the BID is important to the Borough
The BID provides economic development and downtown revitalization services that add value to the downtown properties thus encouraging development that provides increased revenues to the Borough. When property market values rose from about $50 per sq ft to $200 per sq ft, there was an economic justification for new development. Eleven downtown developments have come online since 2002 with four added in 2012.
Property tax revenue paid to the Borough in 2010:
- $97,440 313 W Market (County Administration)
- $34,275 121 N Walnut St (Eli Kahn Development)
- $19,811 158 W Gay St (Darlington Commons)
- $18,658 17 W Miner St (17 Wilmont Mews)
- $13,806 116-118 W Market St (Fulton Bank)
- $11,371 200 N High St (Sutton Walters Development)
- $ 3,698 40 E Market St (Rams Head, old Rubinstein's development)
- $ 2,663 102 E Market St (Mas Mexican Cantina)
- $ 2,434 15 N Church St (Village Record Building)
- $ 2,280 211 N Walnut St (Van Grofski Development, United Way)
- $ 1,678 128 W Market St (Carlino's)
$208,114 Total tax revenues to the Borough each year
New development that came on line in 2012:
- 16 East Market (blighted)
- Hotel Warner (vacant lot)
Pending development (exempt or under-developed)
- First Block (County Annex)
- 124 Market Place (blighted)
- 220 E Chestnut (vacant lot)
- 39 E Gay (old Rite Aid, vacant lot, blighted)
- Gay & Walnut (old Post Office)
Which Borough category is most affected by the BID?
The BID contribution comes from the parking budget category. The biggest thing the Borough has to sell is parking. Because the BID's primary function is to attract visitors to the downtown, parking revenues have increased to an anticipated $3.3 million for 2012 with parking garage income slated at $1.15 million. The BID has active programs to promote parking in downtown garages to increase their revenue.
What are the major challenges to West Chester?
In 2000, the West Chester BID was the only downtown economic development program in the Brandywine Valley. Today, there are several programs -- most with larger budgets than BID -- that provide increased competition for Heritage Tourism efforts. These include Kennett Square ($475k), Phoenixville, Media, Malvern, King of Prussia ($1.1M), Oxford, Manayunk, and Downingtown.
Strong partnerships with local, regional, and national agencies provide valuable resources to the BID and are an integral part of the successful strategy for downtown revitalization.
The following agencies have provided significant funding, sponsorship or resources:
Borough of West Chester
Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development
Chamber of Commerce of Greater West Chester
Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau
West Chester Parks & Recreation Department
West Chester Historical & Architectural Review Board
Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
County of Chester
Greater Brandywine Cultural Alliance
Fox Chase Bank
Urban Land Institute
Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission
Triton Web Studios
First National Bank of Chester County
Penn Mutual Insurance Company
MacElree Harvey, Ltd
Chester County Historical Society
Greater Philadelphia Tourism & Marketing Commission
Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance
West Chester Restaurant Association
West Chester Railroad
Main Line Today Magazine
County Lines Magazine
Chester County Community Foundation
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The BID is a member of the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the National Main Street Center, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce.
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For more information, contact:
Malcolm Johnstone, Executive Director
West Chester Business Improvement District
PO Box 3109
West Chester, PA 19381
Office location: 119 North High Street