Nonprofit floats Broad Street business district

Local businesses would be charged a yearly fee to fund community improvement efforts.

(Left to right) Executive Director of NBR Shalimar Thomas, President and CEO of TWB Cleaning Contractors Trina Benjamin, Director of Corridor Development with the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Commerce Denis Murphy, and Senior Associate of Urban Partners Christopher A. Lankenau discuss the proposed North Broad Business Improvement District at the School District of Philadelphia Administrative Offices on Sept. 20. | VALERIE DOWRET / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The North Broad Renaissance, a non-profit organization, proposed to create a district that would provide support services to businesses stretching from Spring Garden Street to Indiana Avenue on Broad Street.

The Business Improvement District would provide community services  in exchange for an annual fee paid by commercial property owners and landlords. 

With 270 properties which would be included in the North Broad Business Improvement District, the fee for each property owner would be 0.0012 percent of the property’s value, said Shalimar Thomas, executive director of the North Broad Renaissance.

For example, Philly Style, a pizza shop on Broad Street near Norris, would pay $916 a year based on its property value, according to the Philadelphia Office of Property Assessment. Sal’s Produce Plus, on Broad Street near Melon, would pay $269, while Real Deal Auto Sales near Cumberland Street on Broad would pay $437.  

Darrell Clarke, Philadelphia City Council president, presented the ordinance to the council for review on Thursday, Thomas said.  

The North Broad Renaissance currently provides trash cleaning crews, marketing services to local businesses and landscaping services on Broad Street between City Hall and Germantown Avenue, Thomas added.  

The Business Improvement District would provide funding to further sustain those projects, which are currently sponsored by public and private donors, she said.

Although a few of Temple’s properties on Broad Street would qualify to be a part of the district, most of the businesses would be exempt from the fee because they are a nonprofit, Thomas said. 

Emily Murphy, a junior community development major who worked at the Northern Liberties Business Improvement District as a special projects manager, has concerns for how the proposed business improvement district would impact rent around campus as landlords cannot afford the extra fee, she said. 

“They’ll have to raise the rent and then people really won’t want to live there,” Murphy said.

Some landlords could pass off the business district fee through clauses in leases. Under the proposed plan, owner-occupied, single-family homes and condominiums would not pay the fee, according to the North Broad Renaissance’s website. 

Kenny Ashe, a member of the Business Improvement District Steering Committee, believes that investing in a business improvement district for the community is worth the increase in prices that his businesses may have to take on, he said.

“We just have to have a mindset as business owners that we’re investing in the community and thinking long term,” said Ashe, also a board member of Progress Investment Associates, which owns Sullivan Progress Plaza on Oxford and Broad streets.

“The cost is gonna be a big deal, but if you’re only thinking short term,” Ashe added.

Trina Benjamin, the president and CEO of TWB Cleaning Contractors, which supplies services for the NBR’s cleaning and safety projects, said she is hopeful that the Business Improvement District will encourage property owners on North Broad Street to take better care of the space surrounding their businesses.

“We clean along the North Broad right now, and a lot of property owners are not really invested where they do business,” Benjamin said.

“I think that will really help the business owners be active in what’s going on along North Broad,” she added. 

In late fall, one of the two public hearings for the North Broad Business Improvement District ordinance will take place, Thomas said.

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