Efforts under way to establish Fondren Business DistrictBy ANTHONY WARREN,
One of the Fondren Business District’s biggest property owners is 100 percent behind plans to pay more in property taxes.
Developer Mike Peters supports efforts to create the Fondren Business Improvement District.
The district, or BID, would take in the community’s historic business corridor and would run from Woodrow Wilson in the south to Glenway Drive in the North.
Property owners within the boundaries would pay a special assessment along with their annual property taxes, which would be used for things like beautification and security.
Peters knows he’d likely be taxed the most with the creation of the BID, but said the extra assessment would be well worth it.
“I look at it as money I’m spending to keep my properties economically viable,” he said.
Peters owns Fondren Corner, Duling School, the Bank Plus building and the building that houses Sneaky Beans coffee shop.
Funds from the tax would be placed in a special account, and would be used to make improvements throughout the district.
“There are things we can do better as a group than if everyone is trying to do it individually,” he said.
For instance, Peters said the funds could be used to implement a district-wide security plan that would benefit all property owners there, even those who are unable to pay for the service on their own.
Efforts are being spearheaded by the Fondren Renaissance Foundation (FRF).
FRF Executive Director Jim Wilkirson said that in December, property owners gave his group the go-ahead to begin gathering information on the BID process.
Among steps, FRF is working to determine district boundaries, what the assessment would be, and what services would be provided.
So far, proponents are in agreement that BID funds should go toward landscaping and beautification, enhancing security and improving parking.
Parking is a major issue for the business district, and has only gotten worse since the start of a major streetscape project there. The foundation is already working with the city of Jackson to come up with solutions to the problem, including instituting parking time limits and requiring permits for long-term parking on residential streets.
As for security, Wilkirson said FRF is looking at a number of options, including costs for providing a daily beat force to patrol the corridor or ambassadors to assist patrons visiting the area.
“What we’re trying to do is come up with contract scenarios of what those services would cost. Once we find that out, we can figure out how we can make it work,” FRF Executive Director Jim Wilkirson said. “Nothing binding has taken place.”
Wilkirson said the next step is to present the findings to property owners, have them vote on whether they would support the BID, and then petition the city to create it.
“We hope to go back to the property owners in the next 60 days,” Wilkirson said.
He said students enrolled in the Millsaps College’s Else School of Management, as well as Downtown Jackson Partners (DJP), are helping with the effort.
DJP is the nonprofit entity that oversees how the downtown bid assessment is spent.
Preliminary boundaries for the district run from the Woodrow Wilson and North State Street intersection to Glenway Drive in the north. It would take in all of the properties along Lakeland Drive to the I-55 South interchange.
Between Woodrow Wilson and Glenway, it would take in all the properties along North State and Old Canton Road, Duling Avenue, Fondren Place, Morgan Place and Fondren Avenue.
About 48 property owners would be affected.
The boundaries also would take in the University of Mississippi Medical Center and St. Dominic’s Hospital, even though the entities would not be required to pay into the BID.
“Even though they wouldn’t be assessed on their property, hopefully UMMC and St. Dominic’s would want to be part of the BID in some way,” Wilkirson said. “That’s what happens downtown. Churches are not taxed in the downtown BID, but they contribute in some form or fashion.”
Wilkirson was referring to the Downtown Jackson BID. That district takes in 65 blocks, 260 properties and 130 property owners, John Gomez, DJP associate director, said.
DJP has a budget of approximately $1.1 million a year, he said.
Funds would not come in until the end of the first year, when the county begins collecting property taxes. For the first year, BID projects could be paid for with donations or loans based on projected income, Wilkirson said.
BIDs are governed by Mississippi Code Sections 21-43-101 through 21-43-133.
Under rules, groups must petition the city for the creation of a district, and obtain 60 percent approval from eligible property owners in the affected area before a BID can be set up.
Proponents also must designate a nonprofit group or a local government department to manage day-to-day operations of the district once it’s in place.
FRF would not serve as that entity, Wilkirson said. As a 501(c)(3), he said the foundation is, among other things, prohibited from assessing membership dues.
“Although people in our office might be associated with the BID going forward, it would have to be set up as a business entity for the neighborhood,” Wilkirson said. “We could have common office workers for FRF and the Fondren BID, but that would have to be determined once the BID is set up.”
BIDs must be renewed every 10 years.
Discussions come as Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves killed Northsiders’ requests to allow similar districts for residential areas.
Reeves refused to allow the Senate Finance Committee to bring SB 3045 up for a vote. Reeves killed the measure, despite it being supported by Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, the Jackson City Council, the Jackson legislative delegation, and other leaders across the capital city.