Will Business Improvement Districts spread across Atlantic Arc Cities?

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By Miguel Bratos, expert in City Marketing and Social Media**

This is a guest post, should you wish to publish yours, please contact us with a pitching idea. 

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are trending in city management. A BID is a public-private partnership created in North America that avoids the free rider phenomenon, which is one of the biggest problems of any kind of association.

Once a Business Improvement District is approved, every business in the area in which the Business Improvement District will work, must pay a fee to the organization for its services, without having the option to deny the membership.

At this very moment, only UK cities have the option to develop BIDs. It is not possible yet in France, Spain and Portugal. But it could change soon, as in Spain the party in the government has decided supporting Spanish BIDs in the near future. The world experience says that when a BID is working near to a place, this place will likely implement the model too. So the BID adoption by Spain could be the previous step for France and Portugal.

The model is quite polemic. First many people complain about the lack of power than public sector is reaching. Second, BIDs are usually focusing in safety, carrying out security actions as safety ambassadors, a kind of private security staff in the public spaces that is not considered acceptable by many European citizens. Third BIDs usually need to be approved by a ballot in which only a narrow sector of the population can vote, there is a controversy on whether BIDs are democratic or damaging democracy. Fourth, BIDs activities will likely improve the rent cost of the business and it could go through a situation in which only chains are able to pay these rents, decreasing one of the main factors of city identity: independent retailers.

On the other hand BIDs are a great opportunity to accomplish a more efficient city management. Besides, it seems the perfect tool to use the 4 P’s for Placemaking, due to the fact that a BID is a model that uses a partnership to develop a project involving people –and the civil society- and public authorities.

As it happens with every tool, it depends whether it is used correctly or not to determine if it will achieve good or bad results. Obvious, isn’t it? What is not so obvious is if we will use them correctly in the future.

** These ideas and reflection represent solely those of the author, they are his intellectual property and do not engage CAAC. 

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