Alliance Hires Atlanta Firm For DID Services


    GRAND RAPIDS — The Downtown Alliance has chosen Atlanta-based OneSource to provide maintenance and beautification services for the Downtown Improvement District (DID).

    In addition to OneSource, the Alliance received proposals from the City of Grand Rapids and Faith Inc.

    The Alliance’s Maintenance and Beautification Committee recommended that the Alliance board award the contract to OneSource for several reasons, foremost among them being the company’s experience with business improvement districts (BIDs). OneSource already operates 14 BIDs nationwide, the closest of which is in Detroit.

    OneSource also came in right on budget at the $25,000-per-month mark, Sharon Evoy, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, told members of the DID board at their July 9 meeting.

    “The way OneSource came to my attention in the first place was that when I was calling around asking people about how they handle their maintenance and beautification services, three different cities gave me their name,” Evoy said. The referrals came from BIDs in Detroit, New York and Philadelphia that have contracts with OneSource.

    As of last week, the company still had to purchase sidewalk sweeping and power wash machines and other equipment for the program. OneSource expects it will take 30 to 45 days to get everything ramped up, Evoy said.

    “But what we’re asking is that they do anything they can to get people on the street as soon as possible, even if they have people they can bring over from the Detroit office and put on the street with just brooms and dustpans.”

    OneSource might have a dozen workers assigned to the program initially, but the company anticipates it will take approximately 8.5 people six days a week to handle the workload. Evoy said that with the exception of the supervisor, who will probably come from within the company, all the hires will be local. OneSource has a regional office in Detroit and will open an office here as well.

    All three organizations vying for the contract had “excellent” proposals, Evoy noted. Though neither the city nor Faith Inc. was tapped for the job, both expressed interest in assisting OneSource — Faith Inc. with staff for the program, and the city with continued support for the program.

    Evoy told the DID Board that the Downtown Alliance will be responsible for assuring that special events are staged throughout the district, not solely on Monroe Center. The Alliance also will work to cross-market events in the district and heighten public awareness of other activities and entertainment available downtown.

    “We want the events to be focused and driven. The point of doing events is that they’re very focused on bringing people into businesses, whether it be a restaurant or whatever,” she explained. “I know quite often people come to see a play. They see the play then leave, and they probably don’t have any idea how many restaurants and coffee houses and bars are open two blocks away.”

    Evoy also told the board that the city is handling Monroe Center vendor permits. The Alliance didn’t want to be the entity that issued permits because it felt that was more of a government function, she noted.

    The Downtown Alliance Promotion, Events and Communications Committee recommended and the City Commission approved the following interim vending fee schedule for the remainder of the 2001 season:

    Current business inside DID district                  $320

    Business outside DID district                              $500

    Electrical charge                                                     $50

    Evening vending                                                    $200

    Non-food/market place   $10 per day; $100 for season

    John Helmholdt, political affairs manager for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, informed the board at Monday’s meeting that there is legislation before the State House of Representatives, Public Act 120, which would amend the law governing business improvement districts.

    The city is proposing the addition of two amendments — one for “assessable property” and the other for “class of business” and “class for property owners.”

    One amendment would establish new criteria in the petitioning process and a different method for business and property owners to establish a special improvement district, Helmholdt said.

    He said when the downtown improvement district was initially approved, the feeling was that there should be local flexibility for the city or the DID Board to either set different classifications for the types of benefits derived from the special assessment or to exempt non-profits and houses of worship.

    “We see this as an opportunity to insert some surgical changes that would give the City Commission discretion to set different levels of assessment for property based on their class,” Helmholdt said. “A museum may receive the top level benefits because it needs to attract customers, whereas a homeless shelter has little or no derived benefit because whether or not the streets are clean, the shelter still provides services to the homeless.”

    Essentially, the changes would more clearly define what “class of business” or “class of property” means.

    “The bill drafters in Lansing are telling us that under the current law they believe there might already be some discretion for the City Commission to set different levels based on the type, or class, of business. Class of business was not specifically spelled out in the law, so in order to make it more clear and consistent, we’ve added this new language.”

    Changes will also give the board more discretion in determining what level of contractual services meet the needs of the prescribed district and would allow the City Commission or assessment body to assign different levels of assessment.

    “It could say all non-profits and churches do not enjoy the highest level of derived benefit, therefore we assess them at zero. It gives a lot more discretion,” he explained. “In most cases it will probably be a tiered system based on the type or class or property and what the derived benefit might be.”

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