Two state grants awarded to the town – one for local rapid-recovery planning (LRRP) and the other to potentially create a Business Improvement District (BID) – offer opportunities to support local merchants and restaurants in different ways.
A BID, which in Hull’s case would involve the area from Phipps Street to the former Aquarium building at the base of Atlantic Hill, is a special assessment district in which property owners vote to initiate, manage, and finance supplemental services or enhancements above and beyond those already provided by their local government.
The goal of a BID is to improve a specific commercial area by attracting shoppers, diners, customers, and other businesses to the area.
The $30,000 LRRP grant involves a “rapid” process in which to identify actions that will help communities recover economic losses from the pandemic, and provides participating communities with short-, medium-, and long-term recovery goals and a list of projects or actions for moving forward.
“The LRRP grant is in response to the pandemic,” Select Board Chair Jennifer Constable told The Hull Times. “The town is working with a consultant, Civic Moxie, to assess the impacts of COVID-19 on our commercial districts and businesses, with a focus on the front beach area and Kenberma.”
Focus group meetings were held recently involving the consultant, business owners, the Economic Development Committee (of which Constable is a member), and the Hull-Nantasket Chamber of Commerce, to hear input about potential parking adjustments and the impacts of the pandemic on Hull businesses, leading to an overall assessment.
“The end result will be the development of short- and long-term plans for recovery,” Constable said. “It’s a really exciting project fed directly by input from businesses.”
There are a number of benefits. The LRRP process involves businesses communicating with each other toward a common goal, and the development of ways the town and residents can support local businesses that are struggling from the effects of the pandemic.
“This is an opportunity to collaborate with businesses and to have a positive impact on their recovery,” Constable said. “The most consistent feedback has been the need for more marketing, sidewalk improvements, and designated short-term parking for customers to pick-up food or merchandise from local businesses.”
It’s expected that Civic Moxie will present a draft plan to the town by mid to late July.
With regard to the $15,000 BID grant awarded to the town, a special assessment, or common area fee, is levied only on property located within an approved district. The assessments are collected and expended within the district for a range of services and programs, including improving a downtown business area or town center, public relations and marketing, public safety and capital improvements, and special events.
The grant pays for a consultant who works with the town to explore the possibility of creating a BID.
The creation of an improvement district provides a sustainable funding source for the revitalization and long-term maintenance of downtown areas and town centers.
“The property owners pay into a special fund, and the money benefits the district through, for example, tree plantings, marketing, branding, hiring staff to manage the district, and other uses,” Constable said. Pop-up vendors are another possibility.
A BID must be a contiguous geographic area in which at least 75 percent of the land is zoned or used for commercial, retail, industrial, or mixed uses.
Under state law, local communities are allowed to establish a BID through a public hearing process that begins with a local petition signed by the owners of at least 60 percent of the real property and at least 51 percent of the assessed valuation of the real property within a proposed BID.
The petition also must include delineation of the BID boundaries, a proposed improvement plan, a budget, and assessment/fee structure.
Constable noted that Boston’s Downtown Crossing is an example of a BID within a large city.
Select Board approval also is required in order to create a BID.