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Millbrae eyes forming business improvement district: Officials say it would add increased downtown’s economic vitality
July 20, 2015, 05:00 AM By Austin Walsh Daily Journal

In an attempt to revitalize the economic viability of downtown Millbrae, entrepreneurs, residents and officials are rallying support for the creation of business improvement district.

Councilman Wayne Lee said he is working with business and property owners in the region bounded by El Camino Real, Broadway, Taylor Boulevard and Victoria Avenue, to gauge interest in getting the effort off the ground.

As officials bandy a variety of opportunities which could improve the city’s future economic outlook, Lee said he hoped businesses and land owners would be interested in collaborating on an effort to capitalize.

“I’d like the merchants to work together to plan a vibrant downtown,” he said. “So they can access resources in a coherent way.”

Improvement districts work to better a city’s commercial vitality through an additional tax, to which a majority of businesses in the boundaries must agree, used to finance efforts such as cleaning streets, capital improvements, marketing and a variety of other measures.

The city is growing ripe for commercial investment, as officials begin to examine the possibility for mixed-use developments near the Millbrae Caltrain and Bay Area Rapid Transit stations, combined with preparing for the influx of tourists who will flow to the region for the Super Bowl when it is played in Santa Clara in early 2016, said Lee.

Due to the city’s proximity to San Francisco International Airport, and the hub of connection between two major rail lines connecting the Bay Area, Lee said Millbrae is in position to benefit greatly from the those visiting to watch the football championship game.

“It will bring a lot of attention to Millbrae, and a lot of foot traffic,” he said.

He noted city officials do not have interest in running the business improvement district, but fully support of the notion of its establishment and would like to help it grow in momentum.

Currently, the vision is only merely in its initial planning stages, said Lee.

“This is still really in the amorphous phase, and we are still just exploring the avenues and possibilities to see how much support we can gain,” he said.

Local business and property owners will continue to meet in coming days and weeks as officials and advocates look to drum up support for the district, said Lee.

Lee said the district is one of the goals he has imagined for years, and cited Burlingame, San Mateo and Mountain View as local cities which have similar, successful models.

Former mayor Gina Papan said she too is in favor of gauging the interest of the business community in perhaps establishing the district, which requires increased communication between local business and property owners.

“We want to encourage more interaction between everyone for the overall improvement of the business atmosphere in Millbrae,” she said.

Papan said officials and local business owners have received presentations from members of an improvement district in Burlingame to glean a deeper understanding of the merits of the collective.

The path toward establishing the district is not without hurdles though, said Lee.

Some owners of businesses and properties may be hesitant to support the district, due to already feeling overtaxed and general skepticism of joining larger, umbrella organizations, said Lee.

“It is very controversial,” he said. “Everyone has to give money.”

To begin an improvement district, a consensus of local businesses must support its establishment, which would then require all businesses in the region to pay toward the common fund.

But despite the additional investment some may need to take on to get the district off the ground, Lee said there can be a great benefit to many residents and businesses across Millbrae.

“This would bond our community tighter, as well as create a positive environment that would help stabilize our bottom line,” he said.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105



Tags: district, business, businesses, improvement, officials, owners,

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