FAQ: The Greenway Business Improvement District

17, May, 2018 Gavin Damore

What is a Business Improvement District (BID)?

A BID is a district in which property owners vote to finance supplemental services or enhancements for the benefit of the public. Properties that meet certain criteria within the BID boundaries pay a special assessment as part of their property taxes to support improvements. A BID creates a stable local management structure in support of either the revitalization or long-term maintenance of the BID area.

BIDs are very common in cities across the country. However, the Greenway BID is just the seventh BID in Massachusetts.  Boston previously had one operating BID – the Downtown Crossing BID.

When is the Greenway BID starting?

Following a unanimous vote by the Boston City Council and signature by the Mayor, the formation efforts are underway for the Greenway BID to start on July 1, 2018 .

Where are the geographic boundaries of the BID?

The geographic boundaries of the Greenway BID will extend approximately one block off the park on either side. The BID will include commercial properties and rental residential properties, consistent with Massachusetts law. Certain value thresholds will focus the BID on major properties and those with major development potential.

Greenway BID Map

Why is the BID being created?  Whose idea was it?

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) — signed in June 2017 by the Greenway Conservancy, the State, the City of Boston, and commercial property owners abutting the park (represented by the business membership non-profit A Better City) — set the table for the formation of a Greenway BID.  

The BID is being created as part of the joint funding agreement between the Conservancy, State, City, and abutters. The ~$2M annual baseline funding that had been provided by the State will now be shared by the State, City, and abutters. The Conservancy will continue to raise/earn $3M+/year. Annual funding for Greenway operations will be approximately 80% private and 20% government funds.

What was the process for creating the BID?

Consistent with existing state law, the BID is formed by collecting endorsement signatures from 60% or more of property owners within the district that represent greater than 50% of the assessed value. These signatures are then presented to the City Council for approval.

In the case of the Greenway BID, 82% of property owners have endorsed the BID effort, representing 89% of the total asset value – putting the Greenway BID well above both necessary legal thresholds. This overwhelming support was the result of a long term collaborative effort between the stakeholders involved, led by A Better City.

How are BID fees assessed?  How is the money collected?

There will be a fee-assessment formula based on property type (commercial vs. rental residential) and assessed value. The BID fees are collected by the City Assessor’s office through property tax bills. They are sent to the non-profit “BID Corp” which will distribute the funds to the Greenway Conservancy.

How much money will the BID generate on an annual basis?

The BID will generate ~$1.5M annually for the Greenway starting July 1, 2018. In the first year all funds will be for foundational maintenance & horticultural care (M&H) for the park. After the first year, $1M will be for M&H and $500K will be for enhancements to the park. Greenway enhancements will be mutually agreed upon by the Conservancy and the property owners on the board of the BID Corp.

Is the BID mandatory?

The BID is established by an elective mechanism, as outlined above. Once established, all properties within the district are assessed the tax. The BID is subject to renewal after five years.

What are the benefits of the BID?

The Greenway BID will assure that owners that have a major investment in property adjacent to The Greenway pay a share of the ongoing care of the park. The BID mechanism assures a stable foundation for shared funding responsibility to contribute to The Greenway’s continued excellence. The funding stability will allow the Greenway Conservancy to focus on bettering the public park.

How is this related to the Downtown Boston BID?

The Downtown Boston BID is a different organization that helps care for a nearby district. The Greenway Conservancy and the Downtown Boston BID have partnered on events and work together on issues such as public safety that cross jurisdictions.

Will property owners now have an outsized voice in decisions made about The Greenway?

Care and decision-making about the public park remains with the non-profit Greenway Conservancy, which was created by State legislation to care for the park in 2008. The Conservancy’s volunteer Board of Directors has representatives appointed by community groups, government agencies, and elected representatives; the BID will have nominees in 2 of the 21 Board seats.