Business Improvement Districts can clean up a city’s central commercial district and open the door for private investment. 

The Business Improvement District (known as a Special Improvement District in some states) is a community development tool that brings together property/business owners in a defined geography to self-fund improvements to the district’s infrastructure and public spaces. Once the district is established, the BID assesses a fee based on property values to the property owners within the district’s boundaries to pay for these services.  

At the basic level, a successful BID will work to keep an area safe, clean, and friendly. But BIDs can do even more to support local economic development by making place-based improvements and promoting the district’s unique brand. 

This resource, from the City Action Partnership (a BID in Birmingham, AL) is useful in understanding the basic functions of a BID.

A variety of smaller legacy cities have successfully implemented BIDs. In Akron, Ohio, the Downtown Akron Partnership administers the 42-block “Downtown Akron Special Improvement District. According to the partnership, over the past five years, more than half a billion dollars have been invested in downtown and its adjacent neighborhoods. 

Lancaster, Pennsylvania has a very robust downtown improvement district that is housed within the Lancaster City Alliance, a community-service organization. Lancaster’s downtown improvement district is an example of a high-capacity organization that does more than just basic litter control and security.