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PBID considered for Newhall

Exploring the creation of a Property Based Business Improvement District for Old Town

Posted: July 21, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 21, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Newhall property owners are looking for a new way to keep growing business in the historic downtown Newhall area.  Newhall property owners are looking for a new way to keep growing business in the historic downtown Newhall area. 
Newhall property owners are looking for a new way to keep growing business in the historic downtown Newhall area. 

A group of property owners in downtown Newhall are exploring a new means to support businesses located in the historic downtown shopping district.

If, after exploring the risks and rewards, downtown Newhall property owners like what they see, they may set up the first PBID — Property Based Business Improvement District — in the city of Santa Clarita.

Getting property owners to give up money is one thing, but approving a PBID would benefit businesses in the downtown buildings, said Frank Maga, vice chairman of the board of directors for the Old Town Newhall Association.

But first property owners have to be surveyed, he said.

“We contacted Pasadena’s district, and spoke with the consultant they used and he gave a presentation to OTNA,” Maga said.

While only in the embryonic stages of exploring the option of forming a district, Maga said that if property owners approve a business improvement district property owners in the district would be assessed an extra property tax on their land and buildings.

That extra assessment would allow the PBID to set up a management plan — and appoint a board to oversee its execution — which would include setting aside money for anything from marketing and promotions, to safety oversight or future capital improvements if desired, he said.

A core of about a half-dozen people are exploring the possibility of creating a district, looking at what the boundaries might be, and hiring a consultant to help them through the complex process of setting up a business improvement district.

“We would be consulting with businesses down here to see what works, what doesn’t,” Maga said.
When the state killed the redevelopment agencies, it left a hole, said Jason Crawford, marketing and economic development manager for the city of Santa Clarita.

“A business improvement district is one tool that can be put in place to help to fill that gap,” Crawford said.

The money raised with a PBID can only be used in that given area for the benefit of the neighborhood or community, he said.

Fees collected can be used to produce events that bring more shoppers and diners in to the area, or it can be used for marketing, physical improvements or any other projects deemed beneficial to the businesses.

When the state put redevelopment agencies out of business, it left cities with older business districts like Newhall in a financial lurch while in the midst of rebuilding economic activity areas that had seen better days.

Also, in 2009, the city of Santa Clarita secured federal funds that it used to give face lifts to older buildings, and make landscape and streetscape improvements in an effort to transform the area into a pedestrian-friendly arts and entertainment district.

The city hosts a monthly evening event on Main Street, called Senses, to make the area inviting for residents to visit.

“With a PBID, the property and business owners get to prioritize what they need and then use the funds to meet those needs,” Crawford said.

While the city is supportive of the property owner’s exploration, it’s the folks in Newhall who are in the driver’s seat, he said.

“There are a lot of different communities that have PBIDs that have seen success, like Pasadena, Burbank and Ventura,” Crawford said.

Downtown Newhall business owners had been organizing block parties to attract new patrons to the area’s retailers but that becomes a burden for a few people to organize an event that benefits all businesses in the district, he said.

“A PBID creates a structure or organization that involves all of the businesses, and allows discussion to happen in a structured way,” Crawford said.

Both Maga and the city — as well as other property owners in the shopping district — own property in downtown Newhall, and would benefit if activity increases based on approval of a PBID, but they’ll also pay for it by accepting the property assessment fee on their properties.

Maga’s own family history with Santa Clarita goes back to the 1920s. His uncle established Newhall Hardware in 1947 and the family has owned property on Market and Main streets since 1937.

If successful, setting up a business improvement district would be an option for other business districts in town, Maga said.

But, for now, Maga and the core group of property owners are focused on Newhall.

“It’s a risk,” Maga said. “We’re investing a certain amount of our money to give this a shot, but, we feel really confident that we have to work for Newhall because of the upward swing and momentum it has now.”




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