New model aims to boost downtown business
TRUCKEE “-You’ve got to spend money to make money. That’s the sentiment in the Truckee Downtown Merchants Association, whose members are contemplating a variety of funding mechanisms as a way to pick business up in the town’s commercial core.
But during an economic recession, some business and property owners aren’t sure they have any money to spend.
Add in conflicting views over leadership, and what a downtown does, or doesn’t do to bolster business, and the issue becomes more complex.
“The Truckee Downtown Merchants Association for over 30 years has essentially funded all marketing and events through funds raised by The Follies,” said Stefanie Olivieri, president of the merchant’s association. “It’s not nearly enough, so we are faced with doing very little or coming into some organization that brings in money from all those who would benefit.”
During a recent Wednesday meeting, local business and property owners discussed a Mainstreet Program model, which would organize downtown in marketing, events, and improvements, as well as a funding mechanism ” either a Business Improvement District or Property Business Improvement District.
Property owners and/ or businesses on Commercial Row, in Brickelltown, on West River Street and on Jibboom Street would have to vote to form a district to tax themselves, said Kristin Lowell Schubert, a consultant brought in by the merchants association.
The plan, she said, takes a page out of the way a mall is managed, using an executive director and board to spend dues on marketing, events like Truckee Thursdays, street and sidewalk work, and what businesses should be where for an optimized downtown.
Olivieri said the benefits of such an arrangement in Grass Valley have outweighed costs to her store down in the gold country town.
“My assessment is based on the number of employees which comes to about $400 a year,” Olivieri said. “They do events all year long almost monthly and when there are events, our business almost always triples.”
Siobhan Smart, downtown business and property owner, took issue with both the idea of additional fees and fair representation moving forward.
“I can guarantee I would not be interested in taxing myself or my tenants who are already strapped,” Smart said. “Financially it’s not the right time for another tax.”
Tom Watson of Truckee River Associates said if property owners were taxed most of them wouldn’t be the ones paying.
“Today, as we sit here, most if not all property owners would pass it on to their tenants,” he said.
Smart said she’d be more comfortable with a Business Improvement District and the associated fees if everybody is fairly represented however.
“The group has to prove themselves, they have to share and reflect the interests of us all,” Smart said.
“The [Truckee Downtown Merchants Association] has really been fantastic, but in order for this to work we need a group of merchants in the broadest sense,” Watson said. “It has to be unanimous.”
“We’ve talked about the Truckee Downtown Merchants association morphing into a Mainstreet program as of Jan. 1,” said Stefanie Olivieri.
Another Downtown Summit also will be held in January to further discuss the Business Improvement District as well, Olivieri said.