Business improvement district

Business improvement district

A business improvement district (BID) is a defined area within which businesses pay an additional tax or fee in order to fund improvements within the district's boundaries. Grant funds acquired by the city for special programs and/or incentives such as tax abatements can be made available to assist businesses or to recruit new business. BIDs may go by other names, such as business improvement area (BIA), business revitalization zone (BRZ), community improvement district (CID), special services area (SSA), or special improvement district (SID). BIDs provide services, such as cleaning streets, providing security, making capital improvements, construction of pedestrian and streetscape enhancements, and marketing the area. The services provided by BIDs are supplemental to those already provided by the municipality.[1]



The first BID was the Bloor West Village Business Improvement Area, which was established in Toronto in 1970.[2] The first BID in the United States was the Downtown Development District in New Orleans in 1974, and there are now 1,200 across the country.[3] BIDs have been established around the world, including in New Zealand, South Africa, Jamaica, Serbia, Albania, Germany, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

Legislation is necessary to permit local governments to create BIDs. The process for creating a BID varies from one jurisdiction to another, but generally three steps are involved. First, some number of businesses in the area petition the local government to create the BID. Second, the local government determines that a majority of businesses want the BID. Third, the local government enacts legislation creating the BID. Prior to this occurring, state legislatures need to grant local units the authority to create BIDS. In Texas and Missouri, state legislation is required to create a BID.[citation needed].

In the United States, all property owners in the area pay the required tax or fee, even if they opposed the creation of the BID.[citation needed] Residences, non-profits, and governmental entities are usually exempt from making any contributions.[citation needed] This helps avoid the "free rider" problem that hampers voluntary organizations like Chambers of Commerce.

In companies where accounts are split between corporate and government representatives, one would split a BID as it should be considered a quasi-government account.

BIDs in England and Wales are funded by a levy on the occupiers rather than the owners of the properties within the area.[4] If voted in by local businesses, the BID levy is an extension to existing non-domestic business-rates. "In the UK, for a BID to go ahead the ballot must be won on two counts: straight majority and majority of rateable value. This ensures that the interests of large and small businesses are protected."[5]

The operating budgets of BIDs range from a few thousand dollars to tens of millions of dollars.[6]

A BID may be operated by a nonprofit organization or by a quasi-governmental entity. The governance of a BID is the responsibility of a board composed of some combination of property owners, businesses, and government officials. The management of a BID is the job of a paid administrator, usually occupying the position of an executive director of a management company.


North America

United States

There are nearly 1,000 BIDs in the United States. New York City has 66 BIDs, the most of any city. BIDs exist in almost every one of the top 50 largest cities in the United States, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC. Minneapolis and Boston have been the last of the top 20 largest regions to adopt a business improvement district. The State of Wisconsin has adopted the most for smaller towns, with about 90 in the state, 25 of those being in Milwaukee and the rest throughout the state.

Georgia has more than a dozen Community Improvement Districts (CIDs), most of which are in the Metro Atlanta area. These are business communities whose property owners voluntarily tax themselves additional property taxes in order to expedite needed infrastructure, transportation, amenities or other improvements within a geographic district’s boundaries.

The two CIDs[7] in Cobb County are mainly related to transportation issues, working to relieve traffic and congestion and improve air quality through promoting infrastructure improvements. They also provide additional services and facilities for parks and recreation areas, land use planning, development and improvements consistent with Cobb County's coordinated and comprehensive planning.

Georgia’s first CID, the Cumberland Community Improvement District (CCID), was created in 1988 and covers five and one-half square miles at the intersection of I-285 and I-75 in Cobb County in the Cumberland/Galleria area.

The Town Center Area CID (TCACID),[7] also in Cobb County, was created in 1998 and covers about six square miles at the junction of Interstates 75 and 575. The area includes Town Center at Cobb Mall and its office parks, Kennesaw State University (KSU) and McCollum Airport.


In Canada, Toronto has 71 BIAs within its city limit. Montreal - where BIAs are called Sociétés de développement communautaire (SDC) - has 14. The City of Winnipeg has 15 "Business Improvement Zones," the first of which were formed in 1987, with the amendment of The City of Winnipeg Act. In the province of Alberta, they are termed "business revitalization zones". There are nine zones in the city of Calgary and 10 in Edmonton. Regina, Saskatchewan has two Business Improvement Districts: Regina Downtown (BID) and The Warehouse District. It is estimated that there are over 400 BIDS in Canada but no count has been made.

United Kingdom

In England and Wales, BIDs were introduced through legislation (the Local Government Act 2003) and subsequent regulations in 2004. The Circle Initiative, a five-year scheme funded by the London Development Agency, set up the first pilot BIDs, five in London, all of which had successful ballots by March 2006. Association of Town Centre Management-coordinated pilot 'talking shops' in 22 locations in England and Wales corresponded with the development of BIDs' regulations. As of October 2007 there were 36 proposed or operational BIDs across Greater London. To date the most successful BID in the UK is the Broad Street Business Improvement District when measured against the enabling ballot and subsequent re ballot. Broad Street BID is responsible for transforming the top entertainment district of the English Midlands in Birmingham from a low base to an internationally recognizable area of excellence. The membership of Broad Street gave close to 100% support during both ballots.


The legislation in Scotland (The Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006) is different to the England and Wales legislation in that it allows property owners as well as occupiers to be included in a BID. There are also differences in the timescales, reballot and requirements of the BID Proposer. The legislation, and subsequent regulations were passed by the Scottish Parliamnet in 2006 and 2007 respectively. In March 2006, the Scottish Government announced funding for six pilot BIDs in Scotland, Bathgate (town centre), Clackmannanshire (business parks), Edinburgh (city centre), Falkirk (town centre), Glasgow (city centre)and Inverness (city centre). There are currently ten operational BIDs in Scotland with a further eighteen in development and considerable interest from across the country and from various towns, rural settlements, tourism and visitor organisations and single business sector BIDs. In recognition of the contribution that BIDs can make to local partnerships, the management and resolving of local issues and concerns locally, as well as their contribution to the Scottish Governments National Outcomes and Local Single Outcome Agreements the Scottish Government is currently awarding a grant of up to £20K to local business associations or groups, working in partnership with their local authority to develop and implement a Business Improvement District. Business Improvement Districts Scotland [8] leads the Scottish Governments BID programme and provides central support to operational and developing BIDs and promotes and encourages the development of BIDs across Scotland.


Six of the sixteen German Bundeslander (Federal States) introduced the requisite legal framework to create BIDs: Hamburg, Bremen, Hessen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein. BID projects in implementation exist only in a few German cities, yet - e.g. in Flensburg, Hamburg and Giessen.


Whilst BIDs have been heralded for improving the trading environment, BIDs have also received noteworthy criticism.

United Kingdom

In Coventry, a BID was created outside of the City Centre that promoted a BID levy strike.

The New West End Company BID in London's West End has used its collective strength to remove what they see as undesirables from Oxford Street and Regents Street. A man who walked about holding a banner stating "Don't be a sinner, be a winner" was banned from Oxford Circus with an Anti-social Behaviour Order (ASBO).[9] The New West End Company now wish to remove (legal) street traders and small businesses and instead increase the number of larger multiple stores.[10]


Others have claimed that BIDs are by their very nature undemocratic and concentrate power in a geographic area into the hands of the few. Small businesses who fall below the BID levy threshold, although not liable to pay the BID levy, are often priced out of an area because BIDs tend to increase rental values. Larger businesses are more able to absorb these rent increases, particularly the multiple stores.[11]


BIDs have also become a powerful lobby group, lobbying government for improvements such as new sidewalks, trees, park benches and other restorations. BIDs can also lobby different levels of government for a complete facelift on their area if they feel it is necessary to improve business.[12] The Rideau Street BIA in Ottawa has lobbied the city for years to give the entire street a face-lift because of its "run down" look.

See also


  1. ^ Southeast Tennessee Development District, Chattanooga, TN. "Green Infrastructure Handbook." January 2011.
  2. ^ Yang, Jennifer (2010-04-18). "The birthplace of BIAs celebrates 40 years". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2010-10-12. 
  3. ^ Matson, Patricia (February 17, 2011). "Wilmington Downtown hopes to emulate Big Easy’s success". Lumina News. Workin4U, Inc. Retrieved 07 August, 2011. 
  4. ^ London Bids (October 2005). "Local authority guide to Business Improvement Districts". pp. 3. 
  5. ^ "What is a BID?". British BIDs. Retrieved 2010-10-12. 
  6. ^ Justice, Jonathan B. (May/June 2009). "Public Places and Quasi-Private Administration". Public Administration Review (Oxford, UK: Blackwell) 69 (3): 553. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6210.2009.02004.x. Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ BIDS at
  9. ^ Is he a winner - or a sinner? Eva Wiseman, The Guardian, 5 May 2006
  10. ^ Street traders could soon be barred from West End, The Independent, 19 July 2010.
  11. ^ The Retail Sector, Business Improvement Districts and Increasing Rents - Ireland after NAMA
  12. ^ Ottawa Business Journal

Further reading

Becker,C. 2010. "Census of United States BIDs." International Downtown Association. Washington DC. [1]

Becker, C. 2010. Self-Determination, Accountability Mechanisms, and Quasi-Governmental Status of Business Improvement Districts in the United States. "Public Performance & Management Review" 33 (3).

Blackwell M. 2005. A critical appraisal of the UK Government's proposals for Business Improvement Districts in England. Journal of Property Management, 23 (3).

Clough, N. and R. Vanderbeck. 2006. Managing Politics and Consumption in Business Improvement Districts: The Geographies of Political Activism on Burlington, Vermont's Church Street Marketplace. Urban Studies, 43 (12), 2261-2284.]

Cook, I. R. 2008. Mobilising Urban Policies: The Policy Transfer of US Business Improvement Districts to England and Wales. Urban Studies, 45 (4), 773-795]

Hoyt, L. and G. Devika. 2007. The Business Improvement District Model: A Balanced Review of Contemporary Debates, Geography Compass, 1 (4).

Kreutz, S. 2009. Urban Improvement Districts in Germany: New legal instruments for joint proprietor activities in area development. Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal, Vol.2,4, 304-317

Minton, Anna. 2008. "Clean and Safe" in Ground Control: Fear and happiness in the twenty-first century, Penguin, pp37–58.

Town Center Area Community Improvement District.

Mitchell, J. 2008. Business Improvement Districts and the Shape of American Cities. Albany: SUNY Press.

Reenstra-Bryant, R. 2010. Evaluations of Business Improvement Districts: Ensuring Relevance for Individual Communities. "Public Performance & Management Review," 33 (3): 509-523. DOI: 10.2753/PMR1530-9576330310.

Schaller, S. and G. Modan. 2005. Contesting Public Space and Citizenship: Implications for Neighborhood Business Improvement Districts. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 24 (4), 394-407.

Stokes R. 2002. Place management in commercial Areas; The Case of Philadelphia's Customer Service Representatives. "Security Journal". 12, 7-19.

Stokes, R. 2007. Business Improvement Districts and small business advocacy: The case of San Diego's citywide BID program. "Economic Development Quarterly". Vol. 21, No. 3, 278-291.

Ward, K. 2007. Business Improvement Districts: Policy Origins, Mobile Policies and Urban Liveability. Geography Compass, 1 (3).

External links

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