Downtown condo owners would pay $120 a year under proposed Grand Rapids special assessment

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Condominium owners in the Grand Rapids Downtown Improvement District would be charged $120 under a proposed one-year special assessment to keep the city’s urban core clean and attractive.

In addition, the existing special assessment for 620 commercial property owners and businesses would increase by 5% under the proposal.

The Downtown Improvement District, established in 2000, encompasses the heart of downtown Grand Rapids from Division Avenue to just west of the Grand River. Commercial properties, including owners of apartment buildings, have long had to pay a special annual levy.

But this year, under a proposal now before the Grand Rapids City Commission, is the first time homeowners would be required to pay assessment. If approved, 618 condominium owners would be affected, officials said.

Bob Herr, chairman of the 11-member Downtown Improvement District board of directors, said condominium owners should contribute to the services provided in the district because they benefit from them.

“We are always cleaning for the benefit of condominium owners,” he said. “We don’t stop when we get to their building. But someone else is paying for this work.

Downtown Improvement District Special Assessment funds daily sidewalk cleaning, landscaping and beautification, public safety, sidewalk snowmelt, restaurant-focused marketing and promotions and retail, and special events, according to Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. DGRI is a nonprofit organization that administers special assessment funds raised by the Downtown Improvement District. The proposed fiscal year 2023 budget for the Improvement District is $1.3 million.

The dotted line on this map shows the boundaries of the Grand Rapids Downtown Improvement District. (Map provided by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.)

If the city commission approves the $120 special assessment for condo owners, DGRI plans to work with residents to determine how they would like to see those dollars used, said DGRI president and CEO Tim Kelly.

“It’s not DGRI driven – we want it to be resident driven,” he said.

Not everyone is on board.

At a recent city commission meeting, three people who identified themselves as downtown residents urged commissioners to reject the $120 special assessment.

“Don’t you see the additional tax will dampen interest in the property,” asked Kathy Steindler, who lives at Cityview Condos and is a member of the Downtown Neighbor Network advisory group. “And isn’t the goal of the city to encourage people to live downtown.”

She also said the proposed assessment comes at a time when residents are feeling the effects of inflation.

The Associated Press reported last week that an inflation gauge tracked by the Federal Reserve rose 6.6% in March from a year ago. It is the “highest 12-month jump in four decades and further evidence that soaring prices are putting pressure on household budgets and the health of the economy”, according to the news agency.

Another downtown resident said he did not support the assessment because services related to public safety and homeless outreach should be covered by existing municipal taxes.

“For me, I see this as a fundamental element in terms of the services provided by the city,” he said. “I don’t see it as something that – me choosing to live downtown and pay the extras that go with it – that I should have a premium for safety and dealing with homelessness.”

A public hearing on the proposal held on April 26 by the city commission was closed early due to disruption by protesters speaking out against the death of Patrick Lyoya, who was killed by a police officer following a traffic stop April 4. The request is tentatively awaited. to return to the city commission on May 10, city spokesman Steve Guitar said.

In addition to the $120 assessment on residential property owners, the Downtown Improvement District Council is also asking for a 5% increase in its annual assessment on commercial properties.

The increase would bring the average commercial property assessment to $1,929, according to the DGRI. It affects about 620 properties, officials said.

Herr, the chairman of the Downtown Improvement District’s board of directors, said the increase was necessary because his board hasn’t raised the business assessment in three years. Meanwhile, the costs of services provided by the Downtown Improvement District have increased.

“Our costs have gone up while our incomes were flat for three years, and you’re getting to the point where you’re going to eat yourself alive if you keep doing this,” Herr said.

An increased cost, for example, is a pay raise for Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.’s Downtown Ambassador program. Downtown Ambassadors perform many tasks, including planting and watering downtown flowers, remove litter and graffiti and help visitors navigate.

The proposal would increase the worker’s starting hourly wage from $15 to $16.50 starting July 1.

“We have no more reserves,” he said of the Downtown Improvement District funds. “So we have to start increasing revenue. We have to get back to normal. »

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David H. Henry