Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

City Celebrates BID-NID Week

America's first such event. Spotlight on city's many neighborhood and business districts.

By - Sep 9th, 2019 12:23 pm
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Tables and chairs at Postman's Porch. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Postman’s Porch, a park created by one of the city’s many business improvement districts. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Leaders of Milwaukee’s dozens of business improvement districts and neighborhood improvements districts gathered Monday morning to celebrate the start of America’s first BID-NID Week.

“Let’s cut to the chase, this is about how to get people to spend money in the neighborhoods,” said Mayor Tom Barrett at the kickoff ceremony held at City Hall. The mayor joked that St. Louis has the Gateway Arch, Boston has the Freedom Trail and Milwaukee has the requirement that tourists spend all of their money at the many small businesses that dot the city’s commercial corridors.

Business improvement districts (BIDs), of which the city has 31, are self-taxing entities where a cluster of commercial property owners jointly agree to levy an additional property tax to spend on programming, streetscaping and other improvement projects. The biggest example in the city is Milwaukee Downtown (BID #21), which hosts the annual Downtown Dining Week, manages the Downtown Ambassador program, provides staffing support for Sculpture Milwaukee and has recently sponsored the creation of a host of public art projects. Other smaller BIDs might rely on a part-time executive director to execute a single project per year.

The work of BIDs is mirrored by Neighborhood Improvement Districts or NIDs. Kenneth Little, the city’s neighborhood business development manager and emcee of the morning’s event, highlighted the work of the Historic Garden Homes NID in bringing speed humps to the neighborhood. Instead of levying adjacent property owners over $300 for the speed humps, the city’s standard practice, the neighborhood was able to pool its resources to fund the project. The Brewery NID at the former Pabst complex has been used to fund small parks and other improvements. According to the city’s Commercial Corridor Team website, the city has eight NIDs.

“We are a city of neighborhoods and our BIDs prove that,” said Little in his opening remarks.

NIDs and BIDs collectively host a number of the street festivals and fund the neighborhood signage that brings attention to the city’s many distinct neighborhoods.

The idea for a BID-NID Week comes from Toronto, where the annual event serves to highlight the work the organizations are doing in the community. Organizers hope to see the same thing play out in Milwaukee.

“It’s easy to come Downtown, especially with the success we have been having lately, and see the opportunities that exist there. But we want them to come and see the type of opportunities that exist across the city,” said Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton. “A rising tide lifts all the ships shouldn’t be just a saying, it should be something we are committed to as a city.”

VISIT Milwaukee vice president Megan Suardini gave a brief speech encouraging BID directors to prepare for a busy year of tourism next year, but also to think from the perspective of the millions of tourists that visit Milwaukee every year. She encouraged BID directors to review wayfinding signage from the lens of someone unfamiliar with the city and to ensure that businesses will be open during the DNC when visitors will be out and about.

A host of other events are planned throughout the week, most of which are free and open to the public. An urban tree walk is scheduled for Havenwoods State Forest for Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. A food truck festival will be held in the Menomonee Valley (212 S. 36th St.) from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Friday features a Historic Mitchell Street Walking Tour (2:00 p.m., 823 W. Historic Mitchell St.). Some events require pre-registration; information is available on the BID-NID week website.

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