The downtown Public Improvement District has some extra change jingling in its pockets, thanks to soaring downtown property values.
But the PID board is still pondering how to spend it.
The board Monday debated whether to plow more into the traditional core services that it has provided for three decades to keep downtown clean and safe, or invest more in marketing and events.
At issue is a five-year plan that the improvement district is due to create this spring. The city of Waco created the PID three decades ago to provide extra services to make downtown more appealing, using a 10-cent per $100 valuation surtax that downtown property owners voted to pay.
The PID contracts for private security, trash pickup and landscape maintenance as well as a downtown shuttle, special events such as Waco Wonderland and a new informational website, www.downtownwacotx.com.
With last year’s reappraisal and the addition of new downtown properties on the tax roll, the PID’s assessment revenues for 2016-17 rose to $450,000, up $100,000 over last year.
The extra money has allowed the PID to step up its services, including more frequent trash pickup.
Megan Henderson, the City Center Waco official who acts as the PID’s staff, said the district now spends about 61 percent of its budget on basic services, such as security and cleanup, while 27 percent goes to marketing and programming. Another 12 percent goes to community engagement and administration.
She said the five-year plan is an opportunity to think more about the purpose of the PID in a downtown that emerged from its long decline.
“We want to analyze what’s there and what’s not there,” she said. “If these are things we want to do, what percent of resources do we want to place on each of these areas?”
David Lacy, a PID board member and president of Community Bank and Trust, said he wants to double down on the basics.
“I’d argue that we concentrate on clean and safe,” he said. “I don’t think we should change our mission. Our mission is clean and safe, and we’re good at it.”
Lacy said security and cleanliness have helped make a once-blighted downtown a place businesses want to invest in. He said he is not opposed to spending some money on marketing, but the private sector will drive downtown development.
“None of us is smarter than the market,” he said.
But Mayor Kyle Deaver said he sees value in marketing downtown, and consultants from the National Resource Network have urged the city to lean on the PID for that task.
“My question is: If not the PID, then who?” he said.
Developer Shane Turner said the PID efforts have paid off in making the core of downtown more presentable, but the PID boundaries don’t capture all the area people consider downtown. For example, it doesn’t include the South 11th Street and Cleveland Avenue area, where he is developing a hotel-retail complex called West Village. The PID is bounded roughly by Jefferson Avenue, 11th Street, the Brazos River and Interstate 35, but the formerly residential West Village area is excluded. The PID also includes the Elm Avenue corridor up to Quinn Campus.
Henderson said it would be difficult to expand the boundaries of the PID, but property owners ultimately may wish to petition for a second district that would partner with the existing one.