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The Oklahoma City Council voted to establish the Uptown 23rd Business Improvement District (BID) Tuesday which will give Uptown 23rd District Association some serious funding sources to take the district to another level.

Uptown 23rd was a nonprofit working overtime since 2012 to squeeze enough memberships and donations from businesses to care for and promote the N.W. 23rd Street business area between Broadway and Shartel. But, it’s a different situation now.

New Funding

The BID gives the City of Oklahoma City the authority to assess a fee from each of the businesses in the district and pass that money along to the association for some big improvements.

The new BID is bounded by Broadway Avenue to Shartel Avenue and N.W. 22nd Street to NW 24th Street. See the detailed map below.

Plans include sidewalk power-washing, trash collection, and removal, sidewalk enhancements, care and improvement of the median on N.W. 23rd, and security on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

Efforts to get over 50 percent of the businesses in the Uptown 23rd zone to agree to the petition to the city succeeded, so there is already widespread agreement for the new assessments all of the business owners will get from now on.

Years of work

Chelsea Banks, who worked for Uptown 23rd since March 2018 to gain support both in the district and at City Hall, was happy to see the outcome finally occur.

She has recently passed the baton to Riley Bailey, the new executive director for Uptown 23rd. Banks is now a board member of the organization.

Uptown 23rd
Current Uptown 23rd executive director Riley Bailey (L) and Uptown 23rd Board member Chelsea Banks who worked over a year to establish the BID stand between N. Walker and N. Hudson on N.W. 23rd. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

“There’s only so much fundraising you can do,” said Banks. “We knew that the next chapter for uptown had to be something a little more intentional than just fundraising.”

She said they saw how successful the Downtown BID had been, and knew Uptown 23rd needed to go in that direction.

“I spent a lot of time on the phone, via email, and in-person with people just kind of communicating and building that relationship that we had,” she said.

Potential

“The BID funding will allow us to do more safe-and-clean projects,” said Riley Bailey, executive director for the organization.

“Right now we do minimal services as far as safe-and-clean. We do maintain the median landscape, but that’s about it. So, this will allow us to do quadruple the amount of services we provide now.”

She estimated that the association will have enough funding by January to institute their plans.

What is a “BID”?

The City of Oklahoma City website explains:

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are a public/private partnership in which property owners pay a special assessment for the maintenance, development, and promotion of their commercial district.

The key element for the BID, as opposed to an isolated association, is that the assessment for the upkeep and improvement of the district is assessed to all merchants, not just those who want to be involved.

And that creates a much more equitable way for all who benefit to carry an equal financial burden.

Guaranteed source

Kim Cooper-Hart, Principal Planner with the City of Oklahoma City, said that establishing a BID is about a two-year process but the yield on that work is big.

“What is really positive when any area establishes a bid is that they have a huge portion of their revenue devoted to sustainability,” Cooper-Hart said. “It is a guaranteed source of revenue that’s restricted for things like marketing, maintenance, and management.”

“It helps them keep the lights on without having to pressure their donors for things like street sidewalk cleaning, which is not a super snazzy thing to raise money for,” she said.

Cooper-Hart confirmed that as of the vote, city staff started preparing the invoices to go out to businesses in the Uptown 23rd BID.

Tower partners positive

Chad Whitehead, one of the operating partners for The Tower Theater, an entertainment venue on NW 23rd Street, was very positive about their relationship with the association.

“Tower Theater is very proud to be part of uptown 23rd, and we have a strong commitment to enhancing and helping develop uptown 23rd,” said Whitehead.

“What this business improvement district will do will enable uptown to collect dues, not just from willing participants who love the neighborhood like Tower, but from negligent landlords and national retailers and brands we don’t even know how to get ahold of,” said Whitehead.

He went on to talk about the value of a coordinated effort to improve a district for the businesses there.

“What makes Uptown special are the local businesses that connect together in a unified way to present the best face for Uptown 23rd,” he said. “The business improvement district will just give Uptown the tools and financial resources they need to continue on into the future.”

Destination

His operating partner at The Tower Theater, Stephen Tyler, was equally positive about the latest developments.

“It just solidifies uptown as a destination for the entire time you’re out versus just coming here for a few hours for a show,” said Tyler.

“You know the sidewalks are clean and areas are well and that’s well maintained or their security which are the things that the BID is prioritizing right now and then it just makes it that much more enticing people to come out here.”


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