The St. Armands Business Improvement District (BID) expires in 2013, and the BID’s directors are seeking a 10-year extension of the special taxing district.
BID Director Michael Valentino, who owns Island Pursuit on the Circle, said at the Oct. 9 board of directors meeting that merchants seem to support the extension — with a catch: They want at least one-third of the budget to go toward marketing the Circle.
BID Chairman Marty Rappaport said that he couldn’t commit to anything until landowners extend the district, because without the extension, the BID must be debt-free by its expiration date of Sept. 30, 2013, but said that he would “take it a step further” if land owners vote in favor of the extension.
“Once I’ve got the vote to extend the BID, I’m going to immediately recommend that money be put aside for promotion,” Rappaport said.
The Sarasota City Commission voted in April to endorse the BID extension with clarifications proposed by Rappaport, which specify that the board should consist of one landowner merchant and two landowner investors, neither of whom can be partners on a property.
It’s perceived that if a majority of merchants or merchant landowners were on the three-member board, the board could then choose to use the extra two-mills generated for BID monies to fund merchant special events and pay for a BID executive director salary instead of funding capital improvement projects.
In recent years, approximately $2.5 million in BID funds have gone toward capital improvements such as medians, sidewalk repairs and new lighting. Most capital-improvement projects have been completed, but the biggest of those projects remains: a proposed parking garage with public restrooms that could cost between $12 million and $16 million.
Rappaport said that he believes the completion of the final project over the next four to five years could bring nationwide interest to the Circle.
“I think we could get national recognition almost immediately as the No. 1 shopping destination in the country,” he said.
Landowners will need to ask the city for a vote via referendum to extend the BID. A referendum vote ultimately failed in 2009 amid tensions between merchants, who wanted more representation on the BID, and landowners.
The BID will soon send a letter to landowners seeking support for the extension and with information about its accomplishments.