The downtown Fondren historic district is exploring the formation of a Business Improvement District (BID).

Fondren Renaissance Foundation, the nonprofit “parent organization” of the neighborhood, says a BID is attractive for many reasons, certainly in light of upcoming grant projects.

“As the Federal Transportation Enhancement grant begins later this summer and UMMC begins similar work, we see a need for an entity to maintain certain factions of the neighborhood,” says FRF Executive Director Jim Wilkirson. “It could bring substantial savings to individual groups by putting services under one umbrella.”

Those services could include security; upkeep of common areas, landscaping and sidewalks; and hospitality “ambassadors” to make sure visitors find their way.

A BID is a defined area within which landowners are required to pay an assessment in order to fund projects within the district’s boundaries. The first BID in the United States was the Downtown Development District in New Orleans, established in 1974. There are currently 1,2000 such districts across the U.S. The closest to Fondren is in downtown Jackson, managed by Downtown Jackson Partners since 2009.

“We’re looking to do similar things,” Wilkirson notes. “We’re not reinventing wheel. It’s proven it works.”

Wilkirson will meet with ELSEWorks at the Else School of Management at Millsaps College next week to begin talks and formulate a plan to take the BID from idea to action. “They’re a partner, our next door neighbors at Millsaps, and we wanted to see what kind of information they might bring back to us.”

Wilkirson stresses the BID process is not an overnight one and no timeframe has been set. “We are investigating the opportunity at this point, looking into this study being done and the possibility of what a BID might do for us. We want to determine the best direction and what parts of our area might be best served.”

“The neighborhood has a lot of projects starting to touch each other,” he adds, “that bring continuity and synergy to Fondren.”

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