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West Chester BID 2013 Annual Report

Presented to West Chester Borough Council on March 19, 2014 and at the West Chester BID Annual Meeting on April 9, 2014.

West Chester BID

Summary
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. This was achieved by fostering a supportive business climate and acting as a catalyst for business growth in the downtown through marketing and incentive programs.

  • $1.63M : Projected 2014 Parking Revenue from $360,000 in 2000
  • $46M : Increased Assessed Value since 2000
  • $320,000 : Increased Property Taxes since 2000
  • 261% : Increased Market Value since 2000
  • 241 : Increased number of businesses since 2000
  • 13 : Net gain of new businesses in 2013

See also: New Development Projects in West Chester Borough


Introduction
The expertise and hands-on involvement of over 50 community volunteers and professional staff contributing 1,200 hours has added to the success of the BID and continues to establish West Chester as a world-class shopping, dining, business, and event destination for visitors and residents.

Borough support for the West Chester BID fulfills the goal from the Comprehensive Plan (adopted November 28, 2000) to "Continue to assist and financially support the West Chester Business Improvement District Authority to help promote and administer downtown commercial activity."

In 2013, the BID was funded by three general areas:
    $251,496 : BID assessment fee
    $  85,000 : Borough allocation from the parking fund
    $  30,166 : Other funds (grants, contributions, etc.)
    -------------------------------------------
    $366,662 : TOTAL BID Budget for 2013

The Borough allocation comes from the Parking fund. Since the BID's establishment in 2001, parking meter revenues have increased from $360,000 to a projected $1.63-million this year. While this increase results from several structural changes (rate changes from $0.75 to $1.50/hour, additional meters on Gay Street, and expanded evening hours) these changes account for only about $800,000 of the increase. The rest of the increase in revenue of $460,000 could reasonably be attributed to greater utilization of the meters, in large part due to BID programs, including business attraction efforts, promotion of retail and restaurant establishments and the clean & green and flower beautification programs.

The allocation of $85,000 to the BID has remained the same since 2004 although its percentage of the fund budget has gone from 7.3-percent in 2000 to 1.7-percent in 2014. The Borough allocation is similar to the marketing budget of the BID. These activities are meant to increase commerce through visitorship and business growth thus creating parking demand. The allocation is well under the average of 9-12 percent that most companies spend in marketing demonstrating the effectiveness of the BID program.

Adding to the local tax base
There are 271 property parcels supporting more than 500 businesses within the BID. Since 2001, the Borough has allocated a total of $1,030,000 to the BID for downtown revitalization. The assessed value within the BID totaled over $105-million in 2013 compared to $59-million in 2001, an increase value of $46-million. This demonstrates for every $1 invested by the Borough there has been a return of $44 in assessed value. Fiscally, this currently provides the Borough with an increase of over $320,000 annually in property taxes compared to 2001 within the BID.

Added market value
For the BID property owners, the market value for 2013 is multiplied by 2.88 of the assessed value compared to 1.39 in 2001. Thus, the ratio of sales price to the building assessment has increased 261-percent from 1999 to 2013. It must be noted that this is an overall indicator and that an individual property market value is also controlled by its property management practices.

By-the-numbers since 2001

  • $3,771,523 : total program budget 2001-2013
  • In 2001, the Borough supported 62% of the BID budget
  • In 2012, the Borough is supported 22% of the BID Budget
  • Increased market value: $39.83 in 1999 vs $153.15 in 2013 sales per square foot, a 385-percent increase.
  • Increased number of businesses: 241; from 287 in 2001 to 528 in 2013, a 178-percent increase.


Grants
$1,287,000 : total funding in grants

  • $562,000 : grants for Elm Street projects
  • $400,000 : grants for Wayfinding Program
  • $160,000 : grants for Facade Enhancement Program
  • $  90,000 : grants for marketing
  • $  65,000 : grants from West Chester Downtown Foundation
  • $  10,000 : grant from Preserve America


Outreach

  • 550,000 : Downtown Guide brochures distributed
  • 817 : articles in local and national publications
  • 1.9M : website visits


$551,000 : Program costs of the BID since 2001

  • $108,000 : support Swingin' Summer Thursdays
  • $187,000 : flower beautification
  • $256,000 : downtown sidewalk cleaning


Downtown Volunteers
Leadership, expertise, and organizational development comes from more than 50 volunteers that contribute over 1,200 hours of their time to make downtown BID events and programs successful. Further, more than 1,800 community service hours are used to help keep downtown litter free.

West Chester Downtown Foundation
As a partner to the BID, the West Chester Downtown Foundation is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that promotes community interest in the vitality, culture, and livability of Downtown West Chester through education, preservation and collaboration. Programs include development of the Local Historic Preservation Awards program recognizing outstanding achievements for historic preservation in West Chester, and organizing Up on the Roof, an annual fund-raising event that benefits the promotional and Clean & Green programs of the West Chester Business Improvement District.

Vital Partnership
The Borough/BID partnership is vital to the business community. 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, the community, and downtown stakeholders that govern the activities of the BID. The Board of Directors more than ever appreciate and depend on the support of Borough Council, clearly downtown's most valuable partner. Without such support, the BID cannot continue to be an effective program.

The mission of the Downtown West Chester BID is to create a partnership among the business and property owners to achieve long-term economic growth for business in Downtown West Chester.


Achievements of 2013
Beyond the regular activities and programs conducted by the BID, the following programs, projects and accomplishments of 2013 are highlighted:

1)  Enhanced Outreach
As a continuing result of an item from the Mayor's 2011 Community Conversation for a systematic and comprehensive outreach of posted events that occur in the Borough, eight platforms are now in place: the homepage, events calendar, and annual events-at-a-glance on DowntownWestChester.com; an e-blast system; facebook page; brochure, magazine guides, and events rackcard. The results for 2013 was a 32-percent traffic increase to the BID website compared to 2012 (238,002 vs 180,250 visits or 652 per day). The website was viewed in 103 languages besides English. The top ten visited pages were:
1)   Homepage
2)   Restaurant Directory
3)   Events Calendar
4)   Annual Events at a Glance
5)   Visitors Guide
6)   Dining page
7)   Shopping page
8)   Retail Directory
9)   Old-Fashioned Christmas
10) Parking Page

>> For 2014, the BID strives to expand its social media for an outreach of a thousand views a day; participate with USA Today Travel Magazine for national outreach; and expand FIG Magazine circulation.

2)  Attained Funding for Big Belly
With the Chester County Commissioners voting to approve a grant of $293,000 and $77,785 from the Borough for BigBelly solar trash and recycling receptacles, the BID district was positioned to receive 60 uniform solar compacting trash receptacles with accompanying recycling units. This is the result of a BID initiative followed by collaboration with Public Works. The project is intended to keep the downtown area as litter free as possible while providing annual cost and labor savings for the Borough that could be as much as $45,000 per year.

>> For 2014, work with the Borough for a graphic design theme to encourage appropriate use of BigBellys for a cleaner downtown.

3)  Formed a Supporting Partnership with the Uptown Theater Alliance
Working with the Pennsylvania Downtown center, the BID was able to attract grant funding available only through the BID for a sustainability study to position the theater project at the Armory for grant funding.

>> For 2014, the BID will apply for an Anchor Block Grant-to-Loan of up to $500,000 to be used initially for the theater development. The loan payback funds will remain in the Borough for support of future economic development.

4)  Published Looking to the Future Economic Development Piece
Looking to the Future, a downtown development promotional booklet spear-headed by downtown property owners, profiles nine downtown business owners who describe the benefits of locating in West Chester. It features a demographic overview and information on the anticipated growth in new downtown residential and commercial development.

>> For 2014, discuss the option of expanding BID's economic development practices to encompass all commercial parcels within the Borough that supports Good Development projects.

5)  Development of Historic Preservation Month in May
The BID, working in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Pennsylvania Downtown Center with support from the Mayor, Borough Council, and Chester County Historical Society, developed informational displays that celebrated the various preservation activities conducted by the BID and its partners. These include the local Historic Preservation Awards Program conducted by the West Chester Downtown Foundation that recognizes local individuals who have completed outstanding preservation projects and the reference in the Pennsylvania Statewide Historic Preservation Plan of West Chester as one of the state's most successful historic communities.

>> For 2014, the BID is partnering with the Chester County Historical Society to bring the regional National History Day event to downtown.

6)  TV/Video Expansion
TV/Video is an important promotional component and the BID participated in a number of TV/Video productions. These include a 30-minute West Chester episode first aired on November 17 as part of Discover Main Street Series that highlights some of the outstanding communities in Pennsylvania; a continuous segment on the Brandywine Visitor's Channel; a segment on Fox's Good Morning; and the development of a 30-second downtown commercial.

>> For 2014, the BID will expand its video presence on the internet.

7)  Began $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.

>> For 2014, monitor further grant opportunities that arise.

8)  Implemented a National Marketing Campaign
With a rebounding tourism market and support from a grant provided by the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, the West Chester BID developed it's most aggressive marketing plan to date. In total, more than 5-million advertising and public relation impressions were published to a potential audience of 12-million. Ads and public relations articles appeared in more than 25 print, broadcast, and websites, including The New Yorker; Pennsylvania Vacation Magazine; Pennsylvania Tourist Map; Philadelphia Visitors map; Preservation Magazine; West Chester Fig Magazine; County Lines Magazine; Main Line Today.

>>  For 2014, expand outreach of Fig Magazine; Public Relations

9)  Acted as Ombudsman for Church Street Improvement Project
The West Chester BID held a public informational meeting, provided weekly reports to the affected businesses and property owners within the construction area, and responded to questions and concerns as they arose.

>> For 2014, support the Church Street Improvement Project until completion.

10)  Revealed and Interpreted Downtown's Secret Room discovery
Responding to an opportunity, the BID broke the story of a small brick room discovered below South Church Street. It sparked a number of regional articles. Website visits saw a record high. The BID had a comprehensive photographic essay conducted on the room. It has now been resealed for its protection.

>> For 2014, consider an interpretive feature for the room.

Business Attraction
The West Chester BID conducts its monthly business attraction meetings on the first Tuesday of the month, 8:00am at the BID office. The meetings are attended by board members, local realtors, business owners, and are open to the public. At those meetings an update is given on development projects, retail recruitment efforts, and any business changes that have occurred.

In the Five-Year Plan approved by the Borough Council on November 17, 2010, the Business Attraction component identified the following items:

  • Attraction or development of a theater
  • Support of hotel developments
  • Encourage first floor retail occupancy
  • Encourage business retention
  • Attract complimentary national retail chains
  • Work with Chamber to develop a West Chester dynamics of retailing
  • Development of a Conference Center
  • Consider contracting to provide services to clients located outside the BID

Using such resources as Dollars & Cents of Central City Shopping Centers published by the Urban Land Institute and Commercial Trade Area Report by Realtors Property Resource (RPR), the BID has identified tenant categories and their range of square footage needs. Using reports from agencies such as Nielsen Solution Center and RPR, market strength is discovered within the greater West Chester area (19380/19382). This method has provided useful information for hotel, specialty food, theater, kitchen ware, photography, shoe stores, book stores, and womens' fashion.

The BID does not identify sites for consideration of specific businesses. Rather, it identifies potential developers and works with them for available space. Such was the case with the Uptown! Entertainment Alliance (UEA) which considered several sites before deciding that the Armory would be the most suitable. The BID continues to partner with the UEA to identify and apply for grants, some of which are only available through the BID.

In an effort to recruit the best businesses to town, the committee uses recommendations from the ULI study, along with public input on what businesses are most desired. This is done by actively identifying existing businesses in the region to expand to West Chester while also exploring how existing businesses in the BID can grow based on need and demand. The BID staff also regularly meets with prospective businesses that reach out to our office with a desire to open a downtown business. This involves in office meetings with materials for the prospect, as well as a tour of available properties in the district. BID staff gives the prospect necessary information on the buildings available.   
The current focus of development has centered on assisting the Uptown! Entertainment Alliance in opening a theater, assisting WCU in opening a satellite store, and clustering speciality food stores within a high traffic area. However, the BID will amplify the strategy of pro-active recruitment as new retail space comes on-line. The task of the BID is to stay on target to match available businesses to appropriate spaces that does not cannibalize existing downtown businesses.

Most current activity report
Downtown West Chester Store Front Analysis | March 4, 2014

Overall Review
Available Store Fronts: 240.  Occupied: 221    92%
New/Changed Businesses since retail recruitment position started: 31
Current Empty Store Fronts: 19

High Street
Available Store Fronts: 41.  Occupied: 38    90%
New/Changed Businesses since retail recruitment position started: 5
Emily Alice (35 South): Assisted in helping her find current location.
Nutrition Does It (107 North): Provide continual support through marketing suggestions and customer recruitment
Univest (107 North): Assisted in helping find current location
Artist Eyewear (127 North): Assisted in helping find current location
WCU Ramp Shop (134 North): Influential in the location of this business
Empty Store Fronts: 3
27 North (Former Sprazzo): Have assisted in cleaning up the property as well as showing it to prospective tenants and buyers.  
1 South (Former Swope Building): Have given a few leads to the relator and property owner
27 South (Former RKM): Have given a few leads to the relator and property owner

Gay Street
Available Store Fronts: 84.  Occupied: 79    94%
New/Changed Businesses since retail recruitment position started: 16
Roots Café (133 East): Assisted in helping find current location
Eat drink Om (124 East) (Filled Twice including Pop Up Shop): Assisted in helping find current location
Tish Boutique (138 East): Have provided continual support through marketing and events
Balance Hair and Spa (150 East): Have provided continual support through marketing
Viteese Cycling (152 East): Assisted in helping find current location
Dutch Design (128 East): Have assisted with marketing materials
Baco Taco (6 West): Have assisted with HARB sign and other borough related issues
Couch Tomato Café (33 West) : Assisted in helping find current location
Hookah Mattah (27 West): Have dropped off packets of marketing materials
Kooma Viet (151 West): Have provided continual support through marketing
Stay Chic (131 West): Have provided continual support through marketing
Dr. Sharon Kelly (210 West): Assisted in helping find current location
Obvi (148 West): Assisted heavily in relocation
Merchant of Menace (117 West): Was in FIG in the past.  Knows town well
Tayamo Cruz (145 West): Have assisted with issues from early on.
Mediterranean Bakery (152 West): Have assisted through possible grant funding

Empty Store Fronts: 5
141 West (Tony's Meat Market): Have given a few leads to the relator and property owner.  It appears to being close to finding a tenant.  
15 East (Susquehanna Bank): Have worked with the Chamber to explore possible office relocation and visitor center
6 East (Main Line Men's): Currently looking for a buyer for the property  
 127 West (Laurentos): No progress despite several attempts to work with the property owner  
33 East (Rite Aid): Demolition eventually.  Hotel proposal in the HARB process  

Walnut Street
Available Store Fronts: 7.  Occupied: 7    100%
New Businesses since retail recruitment position started: 1
Walnut Street Labs (23 North): Have provided continual support through marketing

Chestnut Street
Available Store Fronts: 7.  Occupied: 7    100 %
New Businesses since retail recruitment position started: 1
Efficient IP (14-16 West) Have provided continual support through marketing

Darlington Sreet
Available Store Fronts: 1.  Occupied: 1    100%
New Businesses since retail recruitment position started: 1
Roll Dogz (22 North): Have provided continual support through marketing

Matlack Street
Available Store Fronts: 1.  Occupied: 1    100%
Only BID property on Matlack is Safe Harbor

Market Street
Available Store Fronts: 54.  Occupied: 50    89%
New Businesses since retail recruitment position started: 6
Silvanus: Have provided continual support through marketing
Remedi Day Spa: Assisted in helping find current location
Hog Island Hoagie: Have provided continual support through marketing
Alfredo's (33 East) Currently under lease and set to open in Spring of 2014
Lunch Box (234-236): Currently under lease and set to open in Spring of 2014
Twice As Nice (30 South): Relocation of Obvi helped bring this business to town

Empty Store Fronts: 4
130 East (former Tattoo Parlor): have worked with the property owner as he plans to de façade improvements
16 East (Former First Niagra Bank): Possibly filled with a business relocating from NY
2 West Market (F&M Building): have given the realtor a few potential leads and currently exploring a concept with them
12 West (Market Street Print): have given the relator and property owner a few leads.

Church Street
Available Store Fronts: 45.  Occupied: 40    89%
New Businesses since retail recruitment position started: 5
Kooma (123 North): Have provided continual support through marketing and with church street improvements
Yori's Bakery (15 North): Have provided continual support through marketing and church street improvements
Malena's Boutique (104 North): Expanded to Feminuque Boutique once it left.  Dan suggested the idea
All4One Sportswear (107 North Church): Moved in after lookin at a few locations
Mumbai Bistro (18 South): Opening soon

Empty Store Fronts: 5
130 North: Have had very little dealing with realtor to date on this property.  
120 North: Various Spaces that are available.  
20-22 North (formerly Various office spaces): Met with the relator and did a walk through.  Currently for sale.  
9 North: Have not explored this property yet.  
16 South: Have walked prospective clients through.  Building currently needs too much work inside for anyone just starting out to focus on.  

2013 Opened Businesses: 22
2013 Closed Businesses: 9
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Net: +13

 

 
 

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