The City Council will vote next month to shift management of the downtown Special Improvement District (SID) to the Rahway Arts District, a precursor to a revamped Rahway Center Partnership. The ordinance, introduced at the council’s Feb. 8 regular meeting, also would expand the SID to include the Arts District, namely the Hamilton Street arts projects.
The arts district would receive and oversee the funds collected through the SID’s special assessment. The SID, created by the city in 1993, generates about $140,000 annually from 165 commercial properties in the downtown area. Commercial property owners today pay roughly an additional 7 percent to the SID, beyond regular property taxes, according to City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier. For example, a commercial property owner paying about $10,000 annually in property taxes would pay another $700 to the SID.
SIDs were created in New Jersey in the mid-1980s as financing tools by local businesses to provide services as part of a revitalization downtown plan. Commercial property owners “organize and assess themselves in order to pay for the services that are needed.” Cities have used it for things like security, sanitation, graffiti removal, facade/streetscape improvements, marketing and special events.
The future of the Partnership itself is up in the air, with an almost certain transformation in the coming months. Among the options that will be examined, according to Pelissier, is consolidating the Partnership with the Parking Authority. The city will compare the operational costs of both entities and see what’s necessary. The Partnership, he added, could still host its major fundraisers and special events, such as Hot Rods and Harleys, The Taste and a wine tasting event.
SID money would provide funding for programming at the proposed Hamilton Street amphitheater and black box theater, and in general, could be used to “develop activities and programs to encourage the long-term success of the arts community in the Rahway Arts District,” according to the ordinance. The arts district board is made up of downtown stakeholders, including city officials, artists, restaurant owners and a developer, Pelissier said.
The ordinance will come up for a public hearing and final adoption at the March 8 City Council meeting.
*** FULL DISCLOSURE *** I was appointed last month to a three-year term as an “honorary member” of the Rahway Arts District Board of Trustees. Honorary members do not vote and do not have the same obligations as other board members; all are unpaid. I expect to attend meetings whenever possible as a means to inform the community, as my blog has always aimed to do.