By Roger DuPuis, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — If you have a stake in the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Improvement District, the Diamond City Partnership wants to hear from you.
After a decade of operation, it’s time to renew the “BID,” as the district is known, for another 10 years. The partnership, a nonprofit alliance for downtown revitalization, is holding meetings for ratepayers, property owners and others with a vested interest in the area covered by the district:
• The first of those meetings was Wednesday night.
• Another will be held at 8:30 a.m. today at the THINK Center on the lower level of the Innovation Center, 7 S. Main St.
• On Oct. 16, City Council will hold a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. to obtain public comment from affected BID property owners. It will take place in City Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Wilkes-Barre City Hall, 40 E. Market St.
The ratepayers previously received invitations to those meetings when the partnership mailed out the preliminary renewal plan, but Executive Director Larry Newman is reminding the community about the meetings and seeking feedback, given the importance of what he has called “our shared goal of a Downtown Wilkes-Barre that can be a point of pride and an economic engine for our entire community.”
That plan can be found online at http://wbdcp.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Preliminary-Ten-Year-Plan.pdf.
A BID is a legal mechanism that allows businesses and property owners to pool resources in a defined area, generally to supplement basic municipal services. All benefiting properties pay into the BID, and in 2019, the median annual ratepayer cost will be $272, Newman said.
In the case of downtown Wilkes-Barre, that has meant raising funds for cleaning and beautification projects, funding additional police patrols, securing grant funding for new directional signs and facade improvements, attracting business and residential development, and marketing the district to local, regional and national audiences.
As part of the presentation attendees will see, Newman discusses some of the highlights of the BID’s impact from 2007 to date:
• A net gain of 47 occupied storefronts.
• A net gain of 205 new market-rate housing units.
• More than $100 million of private investment.
• Two-thirds of respondents to the partnership’s 2018 perception and use survey said they believe downtown is headed in the right direction.