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Presented to West Chester Borough Council Smart Growth Committee on February 11, 2015.
SECTION 1 | Introduction
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.
The 2014 Annual Report is provided to the West Chester Borough Council and stakeholders of downtown West Chester pursuant to Section 9, (1) and (2) of the Pennsylvania Neighborhood Improvement District Act of 2000. This report must be considered the first of two stages culminating with the development of the West Chester BID 5 Year Plan for 2016 through 2020 as it goes through the re-authorization process.
The expertise and hands-on involvement of over 50 community volunteers that contribute a total of 1,200 hours per year 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.”
SECTION 2 | Budget 2014
Each year, an Independent Auditor’s Report is provided to the Borough and made publicly available when completed. The current audit may be seen at DowntownWestChester.com/about.
Each year, the BID Budget has increased due to added assessible properties. There was also a rate increase in 2004 from 2.50 milage to 2.75 milage. This relieved at least part of the burden of support from the Borough.
- $4,177,884 : total program budget 2001-2014
- In 2001, the Borough supported 62% of the BID budget
- In 2014, the Borough supported 21% of the BID Budget
*Added to the benefitted property list in 2014 was 1-9-00100001 (17 N Church St) resulting from a subdivision of former County parcel. Removed from the benefitted property list in 2014 was 1-5-03740100 (125 N Matlack St) and 1-5-03850000 (235 E Gay St) when they were combined in the reverse subdivision with 1-5-03740000 (210 E Gay St). Note: Benefitted properties are those classified by the Chester County Assessment Office under the retail or commercial land use code. Any such property that also has a residential component has its assessment pro-rated on the basis of relative area as determined by the County. There are some properties belonging to tax-exempt organizations which ordinarily would not be assessed but have a retail/commercial component and, therefore, are assessed by the BID. An example is the Borough’s Bicentennial Garage, which has first floor retail space. The non-exempt investment in the BID not subject to assessment is $86,301,390. The residential portion of BID investment not subject to assessment is $13,918,307.
**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 $1.5-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 1.8-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.
SECTION 3 | Local Tax Base and Market Value
There were 270 property parcels supporting 540 businesses within the BID in 2014. Since 2001, the Borough has allocated a total of $1,115,000 to the BID for downtown revitalization. The assessed value within the BID totaled over $107-million in 2014 compared to $59-million in 2001, an increase value of $48-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 $331,000 annually in property taxes compared to 2001 within the BID.
Added Market Value
For the BID property owners, the market value for 2014 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 2014. 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.
Downtown West Chester Recognized as a “Great Neighborhood” in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association (PA-APA) recognized Downtown West Chester as one of four Great Neighborhoods 2014 through its Great Places in Pennsylvania program when David Ward, Assistant Director of the Chester County Planning Commission and member of the PA-APA Chapter, presented the Great Places Certificate to the West Chester BID Board, Borough Mayor and Borough Council on January 21, 2015.
SECTION 4 | By-the-Numbers Since 2001
- Increased market value: $39.83 in 1999 vs $153.15 in 2013 sales per square foot, a 385-percent increase.
- Increased number of businesses: 253 in 2001 to 540 in 2014, a 189-percent increase.
- $1,297,000 : 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
- $ 75,000 : grants from West Chester Downtown Foundation
- $ 10,000 : grant from Preserve America
- 650,000 : Downtown Guide brochures distributed
- 858 : articles in local, regional, and national publications
- 2.19M : website visits
- $110,800 : support for Swingin’ Summer Thursdays
- $195,000 : flower beautification
- $258,000 : downtown sidewalk cleaning
Further Economic Increases:
- $47.7M : Increased Assessed Value since 2000 (+$1,700,000)
- $331,000 : Increased Property Taxes since 2000 (+$11,000 from 2013)
- 261% : Increased Market Value since 2000
- 252 : Increased number of businesses since 2000 (+12 from 2013)
See also: New Development Projects in West Chester Borough
SECTION 5 | Partnerships
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 that recognizes 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 BID.
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.
SECTION 6 | Achievements of 2014 and Short-term Goals for 2015
Beyond the regular activities and programs conducted by the BID, the following programs, projects and accomplishments of 2014 are highlighted:
1) Enhanced Outreach
In 2014, 202,000 users visited DowntownWestChester.com for a total 288,000 times, which was 50,000 more visits than the year before. This is an increase of 21-percent (789 visits per day average, versus 652) demonstrating the still growing popularity and usefulness of the site. The website was given an enhanced mobile capability which increased the usage by 67-percent for mobile devices and 32-percent for tablets with only a 1-percent drop in desktop usage. The top ten visited pages were:
2) Restaurant Directory
3) Events Calendar
4) Annual Events at a Glance
5) Old-Fashioned Christmas
6) Visitors Guide
7) Dining page
8) Shopping page
9) Parking Page
10) Retail Directory
The BID also participated with USA Today Travel Magazine for national outreach; expanded FIG Magazine circulation, and expanded brochure distribution.
The BID completed the first full year of an active facebook page (Downtown West Chester, PA). There were 278 posts providing an organic reach to 187,945 screens. The cumulative annual engagement was 15,719 which made facebook the number one referral site to the BID website with 9,551 click-throughs (3.4% of 288,000; a conversion rate of 5%).
>> For 2015, expand the gateway partnerships with more reciprocal links.
2) Clean & Green
In 2010, the West Chester BID began working in partnership with West Chester Public Works to developed a BigBelly program funded with $293,000 by the Chester County Department of Community Development and $73,250 by the Borough of West Chester. In 2014, the BID met the goal of successfully obtaining 71 solar-powered BigBellys provided by Advanced Enviro Systems. In a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 22, 2014, the BigBelly program was launched. The new trash collection system provides recycling capability, eliminates waste overflow, and increases waste capacity by compacting trash, all of which reduces ongoing costs.
48 community service workers provided 1,446 hours focused mostly on downtown cleaning.
>> For 2015, continue to work with BLUER & Public Works to expand the composting program that was piloted with three BID restaurants (Landmark Americana, Three Little Pigs & Roots Café). The 6-month program led to the composting of 45-tons of food waste.
3) Engaged Uptown Theater Alliance in State Grant Programs
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 future DCED Anchor Block grant funding.
>> For 2015, 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) Created “New Development Projects in West Chester Borough” webpage
Listing 17 pending or recently completed projects within West Chester Borough that represent expanding “Good Development” projects, the BID is able to provide important information on current projects that reflect healthy economic growth, a positive leading indicator.
>> For 2015, promote West Chester as an attractive, safe, and livable community utilizing resources provided by such agencies as the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s Classic Town program.
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 2015, create a series of articles (blogs) that tell the story of historic West Chester during May, National Historic Preservation Month.
6) Towns of the Philadelphia Countryside
West Chester has been selected to be 1 of 15 communities participating in a new marketing initiative funded by PA Dept of Community & Economic Development and administrated by VisitPhilly.com to build brand awareness of the charming, small town experience found in the surrounding communities of Philadelphia. This $850,000 one-year program will promote the suburban towns in New York City (Penn Station) and Washington DC. The BID has been provided a webpage found at VisitPhilly.com.
>> For 2015, expand the current marketing program to include West Chester as a regional presence.
7) Post Office
Since 2011, the BID has been a consulting party to the current divestment process of the Post Office. In 2014, the BID Board approved a preservation goal for the historic Post Office that also serves as a process for strengthening the local historic preservation ethic. Recently the West Chester Food Co-op has created a Steering Committee to develop a local food co-op with the Post Office as a likely, but not definite site. It is a community initiated development with volunteers currently organizing and planning a member-owned cooperative grocery store in West Chester. The intent is to submit for a PA DCED Re-development Grant of $500,000. Only the BID, as a designated and accredited Main Street Program, is authorized to make such a submission for the Borough. If awarded, the grant will come to the Borough for the expressed purpose of loaning the funds for the development of the co-op project under mutually agreed terms if located within the BID. Once the loan is repaid, the funds may be reloaned for any community or economic development project within the entire Borough. Should the co-op project take place at the Post Office, it may also be feasible to retain the postal services at that location.
8) Keystone Designation
The Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development has designated the BID as the West Chester Keystone Main Street, according to a letter of July 1, 2014, from Champ Holman, Deputy Secretary. The designation applies through July 31, 2019. Among the benefits to the downtown is eligibility to apply to the Department for Neighborhood Assistance Program Enterprise Zone Tax Credits, access to Pennsylvania Downtown Center resource programs, and funding priority when applying for Keystone Communities funding. This designation will be more important this coming year as the state budget is tighter than ever this year making funding more scarce and thus more competitive.
SECTION 7 | Business Attraction
There was a net gain of nine businesses downtown bringing the storefronts within the BID district to 97% occupied. While this is significantly high, the goal is to identify a list of potential businesses based on community input, street analysis and current trends as well as using statistics from the Urban Land Institute. Available buildings will be identified to match size of potential tenants.
The BID conducts monthly Business Attraction meetings on the first Tuesday at 8:00am at the BID office.
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 the following business catagories that have been identified as demand businesses:
- specialty food
- kitchen ware
- shoe store
- book store
- bridel shop
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 is prepared to provide each prospect with necessary information on available buildings.
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.
- To increase occupancy rates within the BID district and continue to move with a net positive of business growth.
- Target identified businesses and match with potential properties including businesses in other communities that have the potential for growth.
- Visit at least 10 different communities and reach out to 50 businesses within the first 6 months of 2015.
- Work with Small Business Development Center and SCORE to target start-up businesses.
- Work with Pennsylvania Downtown Center to schedule meetings with other communities that have retail recruiters, currently West Chester, Lower Merion, York, Chestnut Hill and Carlisle.
- Continue to support community-initiated development projects, specifically the Uptown Entertainment Alliance and West Chester Food Co-Op to apply for state grant-to-loan funding and assist in finding a location.
Overall Within the BID:
- 2014: Available Store Fronts: 240 | Occupied: 233/97%
- 2013: Available Store Fronts: 240 | Occupied: 221/92%
- 2014 Available Store Fronts: 84 Occupied: 82/96%
- 2013 Available Store Fronts: 84 Occupied: 79/94%
New Businesses in 2014
Reload Nutrition, 141 West: Supported grand opening and marketing strategies.
Couch Tomato Café, 31 East: Assisted in initial outreach and visit. Visited and referred many sites, including current location.
Judy’s Just Deserts, 235 East: Supported grand opening and marketing.
Classic Diner, 16 East: Worked with the property owner over several months to identify the best need. The property owner had the relationship with this business and we felt it was a good fit. Supported business with opening and marketing.
G Spot, 152 East: Malcolm met with owner several times, support with marketing.
Stifel Investments, 15 East Gay: After working unsuccessfully with a variety of possible businesses that expressed interest, Dan worked behind the scenes to determine current information about new business.
Clout Glassware, 145 West: Support with marketing.
Beau Etre, 148 West Gay: Support with marketing.
West Chester Food Market, 117 West: Prior to the current business, Dan worked with the property owner and a few restaurants and businesses that expressed interest when the liquor license sign was hanging in the window. The property owner later relocated that license when a tenant approached him who will now be leasing the space. Dan is currently in the process of meeting the business owner.
Mustard Greens, 151 West: Property owner already had this business lined up after Kooma relocated to 123 North Church. Support with marketing.
Kooma Express, 151 West: Assisted the property owner and business owner with HARB process as well as marketing.
Avalon, 116 East: Support with marketing.
Empty Store Fronts: 2
6 East (Main Line Men’s): Recently purchased. Working with the property owner to identify potential tenants.
127 West (Laurentos): No progress despite several attempts to work with the property owner.
- 2014 Available Store Fronts: 54 | Occupied: 51/94%
- 2013 Available Store Fronts: 54 | Occupied: 50/93%
New Businesses in 2014
West Chester Hero, 230 West: Support with marketing.
Mercato, 33 East: Actively worked with property owner and tenant to recruit this particular tenant. Support with marketing.
Lunch Box, 234-236 West: Worked with the property owner to identify potential tenant but he had this already lined up. Support with marketing.
Gemelli, 12 West: Worked with business owner from the beginning to identify several locations, including this one. Have assisted with marketing and HARB process.
Flavor Smoke Shop, 130 East: Support with marketing.
BoxCar Brewery, 142 East: Working with business owner over a two year period to identify various locations that would be a good fit, including current property. Support with marketing.
La Baguette Magique, 202 West Market: Worked heavily with this business owner to identify this location. Visited at least six different locations as well prior to choosing the site. Have remained in communication with this business on a weekly basis prior to opening.
On the Go Mobile, 136 West: Tenant is property owner. Support with marketing.
Cozy Kabob, 38 East: Worked with the property owner to identify a good fit, tenant lined up.
Stratus Interactive, 144 East: Related to Box Car Brewery. Support with marketing.
Main Line Men’s Expansion, 131 West: Worked with the business & property owner for expansion.
Empty Store Fronts: 3
16 East (Former First Niagra Bank): Have spoken with realtor and they are close to signing a lease. Referred two offices.
22 East: Property owner has a tenant lined up.
124 West: Space in cleaning process. Potential tenant lined up for a children’s store.
- 2014 Available Store Fronts: 41 | Occupied: 40/98%
- 2013 Available Store Fronts: 41 | Occupied: 38/93%
New Businesses in 2014
WCU Ramp Shop, 134 North: Worked with the university for 18 months to determine need and ideal property. Worked with both property owner and WCU to establish business. Support with marketing.
Lorenzo & Son, 27 North: Worked with former property manager to actively promote the space. Ongoing relationship with new property/business owner.
Expansion of Hotel Warner, 124 North: working with current tenants and the property owner.
RapidDough, 30 South: Working with owners on HARB process and eventual marketing strategy.
District Court 15-1-04, 2 North: Malcolm worked with the county to make sure the historic courthouse would be used after its closure.
Furniture Revenue Inc, 22 North: Working with property owner.
Penn Environment, 22 North: Working with property owner.
Paulmaier Enterprise Inc, 22 North: Working with property owner.
Riggtown Roaster, 21 South: working with tenant to establish business.
Empty Store Fronts: 1
1 South (Former Swope Building): Actively working on finding a new buyer for a potential business center.
- 2014 Available Store Fronts: 45 | Occupied: 44/91%
- 2013 Available Store Fronts: 45 | Occupied: 40/89%
New Businesses in 2014
Mumbai Bistro, 18 South: Support with marketing.
Remedi Day Spa, 16 South: Assisted in initial location, relocation as well as marketing assistance.
Church Street Gallery, 12 South: Initially met with business owner. Support with marketing.
Land Service USA Inc, 1 South Church: Expansion from 10 N. Church
Empty Store Fronts: 1
20-22 North (formerly Various office spaces): Currently for sale, working with realtor.
Available Store Fronts: 7 | Occupied: 7/100%
Split Rails, 15 N Walnut: scheduled to open in 2015
Available Store Fronts: 7 | Occupied: 7/100%
Available Store Fronts: 1 | Occupied: 1/100%
New Businesses in 2014:
Bon Bon Sushi, 22 North: Support with marketing.
- Available Store Fronts: 1 | Occupied: 1/100%
TOTAL 2014 Opened Businesses: 37
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
TOTAL 2014 Closed Businesses: 14
Hog Island Hoagie, 230 W Market: replaced
Viteese Cycling, 152 East Gay: replaced
Alibis Café, 15 North Walnut: replaced
Roll Dogz, 22 North Church: replaced
Blaze Salon, 144 East Market): replaced
Pages, 12 South Church: replaced
Subway, 38 East Market: replaced
Lincoln Room, 16 West Market: sold
Roll Dogz, 22 North Darlington: replaced
Second Time Around, 30 South High: replaced
Obvi, 148 West Gay: sold
Nonna’s, 116 East Gay: replaced
Penny First Attorney, 131 West Market: replaced
Silvanus, 121 West Market: sold
Mustard Greens, 151 West Gay: in process of being replaced
SECTION 8 | West Chester BID Board of Directors and staff
2014 Board of Directors
A. Roy Smith, Chair; Community Liaison
William J. Scott, Jr, Vice-Chair; Community Liaison
Christopher P. Blakely, Treasurer; Community Liaison
Kathleen Wileczek, Secretary; Business Owner
Ray Ott, Past-Chair; Ray Ott & Associates