Missoula County renews participation in Downtown Business Improvement District

Said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier: “Missoula County is certainly a beneficiary of the services that the district provides in downtown Missoula.” (Missoula Current)

The Missoula County commissioners on Tuesday approved the renewal of nine county properties to participate in the Downtown Business Improvement District, helping to solidify the district for the next 10 years.

Property owners within the Downtown Business Improvement District’s boundaries are required to pay fees to provide services that ensure safety and quality of life in the downtown area. 

Because the district’s term ends in May 2020, the BID Board of Trustees has embarked on a process to renew participating properties for the next 10 years.

The district’s boundaries stretch from the Poverello Center on Broadway to Madison Street, and include the downtown’s commercial core and the Hip Strip.

“During the last phase of the Downtown Business Improvement District, and having been an entity paying assessments, we’re recommitting to being a supporter of a business improvement district,” Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said. “Missoula County is certainly a beneficiary of the services that the district provides in downtown Missoula.”

The Downtown Business Improvement District, or Downtown BID, was created in 2005, and provides specific public services that range from cleaning sidewalks, plowing snowy roads and removing garbage to funding a full-time police officer dedicated to the area and investing in development initiatives like the Downtown Master Plan.

“Those funds are used for common area maintenance and management,” said Linda McCarthy, executive director of the Downtown Missoula Partnership. “And the primary focus is clean, safe and economic development.”

In order to continue the district’s services, the Downtown BID is aiming for more than 60 percent landowner approval and support of self-assessments by signed petitions. Tax-exempt property owners, like the city and county, contribute to the Downtown BID funds as well through a fixed-rate structure.

Downtown BID assessments are added to the Missoula County property tax bills, with payments due in November and May of each year. About 100 property owners have already been contacted for renewal, McCarthy said.

Tim France, Downtown BID board president and owner of Worden’s Market, said that without the district’s improvement work, Missoula’s commercial core wouldn’t be what it is today.

“If you like (downtown) and you feel good about it and you love that it’s clean and safe, then go pat your property owner on the back and tell them thanks for paying for it,” France said.

About 650 parcels are assessed annually and provide about $320,000 a year for downtown services. Completion of the petition process is set for October 2019, while the renewal process aims to be completed in December 2019.

The BID employs members of Opportunity Resources to provide maintenance in the district. Aaron Soria, a supervisor with Opportunity Resources, said the BID is valuable because it provides a steady job for those with disabilities four days a week.

Workers sweep sidewalks, weed tree wells, and remove ice from accessible ramps and street drains. Soria said that a few workers have collaborated with the BID for more than a decade.

“I think it’s great that the city takes responsibility to employ people of all abilities and I think that’s super important,” Soria said. “These guys thrive on it and they get to take home a paycheck.”

Since 2005, property values have increased by an average of 25 percent in downtown Missoula, with the district seeing about $850 million in investment over the past decade. France said the city of Missoula looks to the Downtown BID for assistance when it comes to preserving the area’s history and feel.

“If you didn’t have the BID, my sense of it is, the city couldn’t provide the same services, and so it would be on all of the property owners to do it, and that’s kind of scary,” France said. “I fear that it would have degraded, and that’s how important it is.”

Contact reporter Mari Hall via email at mari.hall@missoulacurrent.com.