It’s a theme frequently stressed in film (The Avengers), sports (Miami Heat’s Big 3 vs. Cleveland-era Lebron James) and countless other media: Teamwork trumps going it alone.
That mantra applies to the business community as well, which is why members of Moorestown’s Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) are exploring the possibility of establishing a Business Improvement District (BID) here.
Township resident Eric Goldstein, executive director for the King of Prussia BID, has been offering his expertise to EDAC. To underscore the benefit of a BID, he explained why downtowns have suffered over the years.
“A lot of the reason American Main Streets have declined over the last few decades is the growth of suburban retail malls,” he said. “Malls are successful because they have one collective voice.”
With a mall, Goldstein said, there’s a single entity taking care of the landscaping and maintenance and business recruitment, whereas with a downtown, “You have a collection of dozens or hundreds of individual business owners who, in many cases, are doing whatever they can to get by.”
The idea behind a BID is to bring those disparate voices together as a functional whole. To fund the BID though—including paying an executive director to run it, plus expenses for marketing, accounting, etc.—requires a tax assessment on businesses within the district.
In Moorestown’s case, this would include businesses along Main Street and the Lenola area, as well as the mall and East Gate Square. Goldstein and collaborator Jacob Gordon, a township resident who serves on the Cooper’s Ferry Partnership in Camden, crafted a sample budget of $308,000 for the hypothetical Moorestown BID, which would be paid for primarily through a 4 or 5 percent levy on businesses, based on property value.
“A lot of people just describe it as another tax,” said Goldstein. “People who support it, and there’s quite a lot, believe it was an investment in the growth of their business.”
He said the underlying goal of a BID is increasing property values for the businesses in it, because “if a property’s value is increasing, it means they’re doing well.”
To achieve that, a BID typically focuses on five programs, according to Goldstein: marketing, physical improvements, transportation, tax policy, and land use and zoning.
The King of Prussia BID, established in January 2011, includes more than 285 commercial property owners, according to its website.
One of the keys to making the BID feasible in Moorestown would be getting PREIT, the owner of the Moorestown Mall, on board. In Goldstein and Gordon’s sample budget, the mall () accounts for roughly a third of the revenue.
EDAC chair Jacob DerHagopian said it’s not unrealistic to think the mall might be interested.
“I would not rule out the mall being a player here,” he said. “And the benefit is they’re professional property owners. They understand how this works.”
Goldstein said the King of Prussia Mall makes up about a third of the King of Prussia BID’s $1.1 million budget.
“We’re going to have to demonstrate value to (PREIT),” said Gordon.
DerHagopian and Goldstein stressed EDAC is just in the beginning phases of exploring the possibility of a BID. DerHagopian said the next step is approaching PREIT and told Goldstein and Gordon to refine their pitch for a potential post-summer meeting with the mall owner.
“If they buy into it, then we know where we’re going and that’s the first leg of the race,” DerHagopian said.