Ordinance would codify rules for business districts

A draft version of an ordinance that aims to codify the City of Tacoma’s Neighborhood Business District program is working its way through City Hall, according to a presentation made by City staff last week.
If it reaches City Council within the next few months, the ordinance would formally establish criteria by which business owners could apply for business district designation. Currently, a city ordinance governs the creation of neighborhood councils. But code for the formation of the city’s business districts does not exist.
“We want to correct that,” said Martha Anderson, assistant director of the city’s community and economic development department. Anderson presented a draft of the four-page ordinance during the City Council’s community and economic development committee meeting Jan. 22.
According to the City, Tacoma’s recognized business districts date back to 1991, when it created the Neighborhood Business District Revitalization Program. The program was designed to improve economic and redevelopment within Tacoma’s oldest neighborhood business areas by providing technical assistance in the areas of organization, design, promotion, and economic restructuring. Historically, the City and business district stakeholders have worked together on projects such as rehabilitation of building facades and storefronts, streetscape improvements, marketing and promotion, and recruitment of new businesses.
“We’re now at a point where we feel the program has well matured,” added Anderson. She said her department has received a number of requests from neighborhood groups wanting to form their own business districts. Most recently, business owners near 56th Street and Pacific Avenue have expressed interest in district designation.
According to the draft ordinance, prospective business districts would have to meet the following criteria:
— Must be located within a designated neighborhood mixed-use center;
— Must contain at least 10 businesses licensed by the City of Tacoma;
— Must contain at least five different commercial property ownership interests;
— Must be properly zoned for commercial development;
— Must include at least one principle, minor, or collector arterial street;
— Must have access to public transit services, or the prospect of such services;
— Must be contiguous, compact, easily-walkable, and pedestrian-oriented
The ordinance would also require a proposed business district to create a supporting, non-profit organization of at least six business or commercial property owners. The would-be district would also need to create a board of directors, elected by the district members, that meets regularly for one year before applying for the designation. It must also join the Cross District Association, a coalition of the city’s business districts.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the committee received a letter from John Trueman, president of the Cross District Association, which has helped craft the ordinance, supporting the plan. “We strongly support this proposal, and ask for your help in implementing this important ordinance,” wrote Trueman.