During city budget deliberations last week, the Downtown Moose Jaw Association presented a request for $125,000 from the city in 2022, after not receiving any funding last year.
The plan is to request $125,000 every year for the next three years until the organization can become self-sustaining. This plan includes the creation of a Business Improvement District (BID) by 2025 in which the organization can charge a business levy.
Downtown Moose Jaw Association chair Geoff Anderson presented to city council, noting that the Local Area Plan suggests the establishment of a downtown BID. Moose Jaw hasn’t had a downtown BID since the last-1980s to early 1990s.
“It would be a big step for council because we haven't done this for a long time and it's been tossed around the table over the years, but we have never had a presentation like this that just really lays out clearly what you expect from us, and what you're going to deliver to the citizens, and to the businesses of Moose Jaw,” said Coun. Heather Eby.
Anderson noted that a BID would not be established right away as businesses are still trying to recover from the pandemic and can’t afford levies right now.
“We want to ensure that we provide the value first to the business owners of the downtown core, and we feel we haven't done it to this point,” Anderson said.
“We've certainly built the foundations to execute on that, but we feel certain in three years we will be prepared to move forward with that.”
Anderson added that Moose Jaw is one of the only large cities in Saskatchewan that does not have a BID.
The downtown association looked at the budgets for similar groups in Regina, Prince Albert and Yorkton. The budgets ranged from $78,000 for the smaller cities to $250,000 in Regina. Many of the funding came through city grants and BID tax levies.
“This is an important piece in establishing a BID, a Business Improvement District for this group so that in 2025, as it shows in their proposal, they would like to be able to levy businesses to fund this organization,” said Coun. Dawn Luhning.
The group said their objectives align with the city’s objectives when it comes to visibility and awareness, communication, economic stimulation and vitality.
When it comes to visibility and awareness, Anderson said the key deliverable is signage and creating a street enhancement program. Over the last year, in partnership with the Moose Jaw Kinsmen Club and grant funding, the Kinsmen Art Project was launched with painting benching, fire hydrants and garbage bins to bring a younger demographic downtown.
The groups said they would also be supportive of a major downtown mural program. They are looking at current promotions as well as expanding on promotions including sidewalk days, music festivals, winter festivals, busker fest days and spring promotions.
Anderson added there is a need to drive membership through new member welcome kits, branding and the development of the downtown association’s website over the past six months.
For communication, the downtown association is looking at ways to establish clear lines of communication between businesses and the association so businesses understand what events are happening and how they can support them.
The group is looking at initiatives to support business growth when it comes to economic stimulation. This includes supporting and promoting entrepreneurial activity to bring in new businesses, utilizing the Thrive Sask pilot program and pursuing grant and funding assistance to encourage diversification, expansion and creation of businesses downtown.
For vitality and, more specifically, beautification, the downtown association already participates in the adopt-a-planter program and promotes visually appealing storefronts. The association would like to get involved with clean-up crews for seasonal clean-ups and would like to partner with the city when it comes to policies for summer patios, summer space rentals and pop-up patios and shops.
A decision on the downtown association’s funding will be made later in December during budget deliberations.