With a struggling economy, tight budgets, and empty storefronts along the Kinderkamack Road corridor in River Edge, the governing body may seek input from local businesses regarding the creation of a Special Improvement District (SID).
The SID is a model for managing the municipalities commercial corridor by providing business and property owners the ability to organize as a single entity, raise funds for activities that enhance or expand upon municipal services, and through a District Management Corporation, to manage themselves to become a more effective destination for commerce.
"For the downtown area, you would first need to do a special assessment of the commercial properties and conduct a feasibility study to see if the borough could implement a SID," borough attorney Sam Cereste said.
Part of the study would require the borough to define what constitutes a commercial area in town such as the downtown area along Main Street and Grant Avenue and the larger strip malls along Kinderkamack Road.
But the key would have having all of the local business owners support the creation of a Special Improvement District. In the long-term scenario, a SID functions like a corporation with a budget and led by an Executive Director. If approved, the SID would be in charge of its own maintenance and marketing of the area.
"Tenafly considered a Special Improvement District," Cereste said. "They needed $20,000 for a study, half supplied by the borough and the rest by a state grant. The first thing to do is conduct a hearing and find out what the public feels about a SID in the community and enlist the support of the Chamber of Commerce."
In Tenafly's case, the SID initially faced challenges from its business owners due to a lack of a specifically defined area to be included. Owners also balked at the public-private partnership in which property and business owners are levied assessments that fund improvements within the district’s borders. Business owners concerns in Tenafly have not changed over the years and now even the borough's governing body has begun to have doubts, although Mayor Peter Rustin called to give the district one more year.
This would not be the first time that River Edge has explored creating a Special Improvement District as the governing body sought out support from the Chamber in 2002 and 2005. The town also applied for a grant to cover the Executive Directors costs as well but was not successful.
An SID Executive Director is charged with running the day-to-day operations but reports to a Board of Directors comprised of business property owners, business owners, a resident of the borough and borough officials.
Bergenfield's SID Executive Director Don Smartt expressed interest in speaking to River Edge about the benefits of the special improvement district, according to Councilwoman Kathleen Murphy.
Some of the benefits that Bergenfield has found is the creation of its own website to promote local businesses and tie in with social media sites such as Facebook and Youtube and the support of the business community.
"We can't entertain a Special Improvement District if the business community is not on board," Mayor Sandy Moscaritolo said. "If we could get the 10 largest commerical owners together and see if five or six would be on board then we could work to gain the support of the rest. But it would be impossible if the business community is not on board."
Councilman Edward Mignone has called for the Zoning Subcommittee to also look into the creation of a SID; currently River Edge does not allow street parking on Kinderkamack Road which could be a major component of increasing patronage to the business district.
"I'm all for Mr. Smartt and Oradell's planner Paul Philips come in and speak to us," Mignone said. Oradell does allow on-street parking along Kinderkamack Road from Oradell Avenue to Brookside Avenue as a benefit to its local businesses.