Saturday, December 26, 2009

One Example of Creative BID Programming

Its no surprise that New York City is home to the largest collection of BIDs in the nation. Nearly $100 million dollars worth of services are generated by the city’s 64 BIDs. While many of these BIDs offer typical services such as trash collection, lighting infrastructure, security and beautification projects, one NYC BID is working hard to go beyond the traditional call of duty. The Alliance for Downtown New York offers creative and cooperative programing aimed to serve local businesses, the local underprivelaged population, and even the New York City police force.

The Alliance, founded in the mid 1990’s, is located in lower Manhattan’s financial center. Situated in Manhattan’s Central Business District, The Alliance takes care to provide amenities fitting to members of the bustling business community. Current initiatives funded by BID assessments include the creation of an internet wireless network, as well as the establishment of commercial hotspots such as Winter Garden and 60 Wall Street. The Alliance boasts: “we have also been working with different levels of government to create a Wireless Redundancy communications network throughout all of Lower Manhattan – a system that will make Lower Manhattan the place to be for business continuity”. The BID also helps businesses aspiring to locate in this commercial epicenter to find appropriate property and to network with property owners. The BID puts potential downtown businesses in touch with local potential funders and with local organizations providing technical business assistance. The Alliance has taken an approach that would behoove all BIDs nationwide; to adapt the projects of the BID, and the spending of the assessment on projects and initiatives in-line with the character of the area. It is important for BIDs to understand the intrinsic character of the area, and thus understand what elements of the area should be built upon. A one-size-fits-all approach to BIDs will not work as well as a tailored, area-specific and creative allocation of assessment funds.

One such creative program of the Alliance is its Private Security Scholarship Program formed in conjunction with City University of New York's Borough of Manhattan Community College. Initiated in 2000, the aim of this scholarship is to allow those serving on the BIDs security team to pursue training, and eventually to become a New York Police Department officer. "'Our Private Security Scholarship Program is a win-win proposition,' says Eric Deutsch,President of the Alliance for Downtown New York". In addition to providing education to those who might not otherwise be able to afford college, this program helps the Downtown Alliance recruit and develop a more skilled and committed workforce and improve the quality of security services it provides throughout Lower Manhattan". BIDs are no strangers to claims of gentrification and of neglecting local low income residents, but this scholarship program speaks to the ability of BIDs to both serve businesses and local residents. The BID is also able to recruit top-notch, dedicated security officers who are looking to take advantage of the program. While this particular BID may have access to financial resources not easily accessible to other areas of the nation, this strategic partnership with the NYPD and local college shows just how innovative BIDs can be, and that creative thinking, as much as dollars can bring about real change.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Calling all Economic Prosperity Elements!

EDD is currently collecting Economic Prosperity Elements from Comprehensive Plans across the nation. EDD would like to form a repository of these plans as a reference for our members. If you would like to submit an Economic Prosperity Element url for EDD please e-mail me at shanaedd (at) gmail (dot) com or provide the url in the comments section following this post.

Economic Pr
osperity Elements differ from redevelopment or typical economic elements of comprehensive plans. The elements aim to align a jurisdiction's quality of life, growth and economic justice goals with their overall economic conditions and potential.

An excerpt from
the City of San Diego's draft economic prosperity element explains the concept's usefulness, in that it "incorporates the relevant values, policy recommendations, and action items from the General Plan Strategic Framework Element and will replace the existing General Plan Industrial, Commercial and Redevelopment Elements. In the past, plans, policies, and municipal operations have separated land use planning and economic development disciplines. Often, the conflicting policies of each have resulted in inefficient efforts to achieve quality of life goals...the Economic Prosperity Element seeks to combine the efforts of each discipline to provide a more comprehensive approach to increasing the standard of living for San Diego residents."

The final City of San Diego General Plan Economic Prosperity Element provides a set of policies for industrial and commercial land uses, regional centers and sub-employment areas, education and workforce development, employment, business development, military installations, tourism, international trade and maritime trade, border relations, redevelopment, economic information monitoring/metrics and strategic planning, that are all based on this integrated vision of the economy with land use planning and a community's overall well-being.

City of San Diego City Planning and Community Investment Staff, recipients of the APA Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan for their work on the General Plan, which includes the Economic Prosperity Element.

Does your jurisdiction have an Economic Prosperity Element? Has your jurisdiction otherwise acted to integrate economic fundamentals with other areas of your comprehensive plans?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Recession Across the Country: Arlington, VA

This is the first in a series of blog posts about the impact of the recession in communities across the country. The current economic recession has had a severe impact on the nation as a whole, and every place has been impacted in some way. However, as economic development planners know, there isn't a single national economy, but rather the national economy that is comprised of a variety of regional economies, that drive the country. The nation's regions have been impacted by the recession to differing degrees, and in different ways. If you would like to spotlight your community in this series of blog posts please contact us.

Arlington, Virginia, located just outside the nation's capital, is a small urban county approximately 26 square miles. It is one of the most densely populated counties in the nation, with a population density of 8,140 persons per square. The county's current population, 210,000, represents a 10 percent increase over its 2000 population. Arlington is known nationally for its young, highly educated workforce, in 2007 approximately 68% of Arlington adults age 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher and 38% had a graduate or professional degree. Arlington is also considered the premier national model for the successful Transit Oriented Development implementation. Given these strengths, it shouldn't be that surprising that Arlington has fared comparatively well during the current recession and past recessions. The following graphs were provided by Arlington Economic Development Regional Economist Isabelle Xu:

In October 2009, Business Week magazine named Arlington as the best place in America to ride out a recession.

Arlington's knowledge-based workforce combined with its integrated urban development are what has given the county its competitive edge during economic downturns, according to an internet post by Arlington Economic Development director Terry Holzheimer:

"A strong federal government presence, a more recent diversification of the economic base, and location near the nation’s capital have been invaluable, however, they account for only part of the reason. The primary factor in our success has been to create an urban environment that is attractive to employers, residents and visitors alike. Placemaking in its broadest context is the key to our success. In our case, placemaking has meant incorporating into our planning processes attention to detail relative to a number of factors: density, product diversification, land use mix, transportation options, and a retail strategy. Each of these has supported our vision of high density, mixed use, transit-oriented urban villages."

What is your take? Is placemaking an integral part of economic resiliency? Or has Arlington's position at the center of a dynamic major metro what has primarily given the county its advantages? As reported in the Washington Post, Arlington is actually second in nation, behind nearby exurban Loudoun County, in the presence of individuals 25-34 with incomes over $100,000.

For more information on Arlington visit:

Arlington Economic Development
Arlington Planning Research and Analysis