My BID experiences – Philadelphia

My BID experiences – Experience #1 Philadelphia – Clean & safe but so much more

The City of Philadelphia is an impressive City, but it has not always been that way. In the early nineties crime rates were high and the City was poorly presented with many boarded up shopfronts and street issues including homelessness. Enter Center City Business Improvement District. Paul Levy established the BID in 1990 and the City has not looked back.

The Business Improvement District in Philadelphia was recommended to me as an excellent example of what a successful BID could deliver for the benefit of stakeholders. Cleaning and safety were two key priorities initially and marketing, events, streetscape improvements and customer signage were added as progress was made.

In 2005 I stayed in Philadelphia to see first hand how the Center City BID operated. Walking through the Philadelphia City streets I was blown away by the standard of cleaning, the condition of the sidewalks, the well-presented streetscape, and the overall customer amenity and first-class street environment. Customers and visitors felt safe because it was obvious that the streets were cared for and the level of detail was like a well-managed shopping centre. The results were exemplary.

Walking along a street on the edge of the BID area I was stunned to see the poor presentation just across the road. The pavement was not clean, a bin was overflowing and poorly hoarded property told a sad story. I could see the area was not being maintained to the high standard that I had experienced walking streets in the BID area. Businesses outside the BID area often apply to join the BID so that their customers and their businesses can benefit from the services delivered over and above local authority baseline delivery.

I was keen to learn more about the actions taken to improve customer safety. I attended the joint meeting between security guards and police patrols when the shift change-over took place in the BID office meeting room. The guards responsible for the late afternoon / evening shift were briefed on incidents and activities over the past 24 hours to assist them pre-empt issues that may affect customers.

The Philadelphia Center City District BID does so much more than cleaning and safety with a range of activities and events planned all year. The six-monthly Restaurant Week is extremely popular and the additional events scheduled for the city parks are well attended. In addition, an extensive amount of research is conducted and reports are made available for businesses and property owners. Reports include Retail Trends, Pedestrian Counts, Office and Employment, Developments, Transportation and Housing. Everything gets measured to ensure improvement.

Paul Levy’s contribution to the city was recognised with a Philadelphia Award in 2005. The Center City District BID is still delivering projects with great success more than 30 since it was formed.

My first contact with a Business Improvement District truly opened my eyes and I wanted to see more examples of success and determine how BIDs could be adapted to Australian Cities.

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