Business Owners on the Downtown Mall Call on City Council to Step Up

August 29, 2013

Business owners and Charlottesville city councilors agree there are have been some improvements when it comes to safety and crime on the Downtown mall.

"Data shows things have gotten better," said City Council member Dede Smith. "Calls for service to the police department are down by forty percent from this time last year, so clearly things are better than they were a year ago."

One year after city council created a task force to identify problems on the Downtown Mall, business members and residents presented their findings and proposals for solutions during a council work session at City Space Thursday night.

Business owners say there are several maintenance needs on the mall and they shouldn't be the ones to foot the bill.

"Downtown, the way I look at it, the city is the landlord," said Joan Fenton, a business owner on the mall and a member of the Downtown Business Association.

"The city owns this mall and if you were the landlord, you'd have certain responsibilities. They don't view themselves as the landlord when it comes to those issues of promoting the mall and they are the ones to do it and they need to step up and do it."

Fenton says the Downtown Business Association operates on a $2,000 budget, without any contribution from the city. Business owners would like the city to pony up and provide more funding for maintenance issues like street lamps on side streets, more trash receptacles, and continued police patrol.

Council members were receptive to suggestions during the meeting, but say this is the first step in a long process. "We will be going into the budget season come this fall, so it's really about how we allocate our funds," said Smith.

One part of the task force presentation, included the proposal of creating a Business Improvement District (BID), which would increase the property tax on the Downtown Mall by one or two percent. The extra funds would be allocated for improvement needs on the mall. Many business owners support the BID, saying it would pay off in the long run.

"Unfortunately in my experience,city council gets a lot of reports and a little action," Fenton said. "I think it's up to the community to insist that some of these things are done."

Charlottesville City Council's next public meeting is scheduled for September 3rd.

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