South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

To BID or not to BID, that is the question to answer in South Side


August 4, 2009

Reporter Commentorial

The coming years are going to present a special challenge for South Side in terms of government funding in the neighborhood.

The next census will most likely bring good news and bad news to the neighborhood: the good news is that the median income has increased over the past ten years; the bad news is that the median income has increased over the past ten years and the neighborhood will no longer be eligible for some of the funding it has benefited from in the past.

URA funding for the Mainstreets Program in South Side after more than 20 years is coming to an end. Now in "Achiever" status in the program, the business community will have to look elsewhere for funding that has provided façade improvements, street cleaning, renovations and so much more over the years.

The neighborhood as a whole, both commercial and residential, must now consider alternative ways to keep things going.

An alternative now being discussed in South Side again is the establishment of a Neighborhood Improvement District or NID. The newly revised South Side Neighborhood Plan also recommends exploring the implementation of a NID in the community.

Creating a NID is a years-long process involving notification of property owners, community meetings, public hearings, a vote by property owners and city council approval.

If created, a NID would be its own organization, not under the jurisdiction of the city, or other South Side organizations such as South Side's Planning Forum, the Local Development Company, the Chamber of Commerce or the Community Council. The NID would have its own board of directors made up of property owners, could hire its own staff and decide how to spend its money.

The NID generates its funding through an assessment that could be based on assessed value, square footage or even linear footage of a property. Non-profit organizations owning property in the NID are exempt from paying the assessment, but can voluntarily decide to participate.

The borderlines of the NID will be decided upon early. While the state allows NIDs for as few as two adjoining properties, a wide-spread plan encompassing all or most of South Side would be more practical and provide the most benefits to the most residents and businesses.

Although they aren't limited to, typically NIDs focus on safe and clean initiatives and promoting the area. Depending on what level it is funded, the NID could provide clean up crews for the business district and the neighborhood; through the city, it could provide funding to hire additional police in the community or hire a building inspector for the South Side alone.

A higher level of funding could provide improvements to the streetscape, offer sidewalk grants to homeowners or any number of programs depending on what those in the NID decide – And it's their money to decide, not city council, not the SSLDC, not the chamber of Commerce.

There are those residents that would say "let the commercial district pay for it, they're the ones that benefit the most," but they would be wrong. Truly the business district has benefited from the resurgence of South Side, but so have the residents. Property values have climbed over the years, visi-

tors come for the bars (yes, the bars) and restaurants, the quirky little shops and the entertainment and come back to be residents and raise their kids and dogs.

Indeed the residents have benefited from a strong Carson Street and Carson Street needs a strong residential community to remain vibrant. Both would be wise to consider a Neighborhood Improvement District if it is proposed in the near future.

Are you in favor or opposed to a NID in South Side? Please go to and register your vote in our poll.


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