116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Cedar Rapids city leaders have created a program allowing neighborhoods in the city to establish Self-Supported Municipal Improvement Districts that could generate dollars to pay for various improvements and services. We think it’s a good program, and we’re eager to see the results.
Cedar Rapids currently has three SSMIDS covering downtown, the MedQuarter and Czech Village-New Bohemia neighborhood. A portion of taxes collected from property owners in the districts are reinvested in neighborhood improvements, including beautification efforts.
The new SSMID incubator program approved by the City Council last week would allow other neighborhoods to seek a SSMID designation. The city will match dollars raised by the new districts up to $100,000, with hopes of kick-starting long-term plans.
“I think the real magic in our city happens … when the city leverages private partnerships, and this is exactly that,” Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell told the council, according to The Gazette’s Marissa Payne. “This is partnering, leveraging our city resources — taxpayer resources — with private partners. So anytime we can we can do that, we've seen success.”
Success means making improvements benefiting existing businesses while also encouraging new investments. It was a combination of public and private spending that first spurred new investments in the New Bohemia neighborhood, now among the city’s showcase attractions. Investments in changes big and small, from streetscapes and streetlights to decorative plantings and bench, can make a big difference in the feel and attractiveness of a neighborhood.
The Czech Village-New Bohemia SSMID would be eligible for city dollars under the program because it was formed after Jan. 1, 2014. The older, well-established downtown and MedQuarter SSMID aren’t eligible.
It’s an opportunity for more commercial districts in the city’s core and in areas outside of downtown to establish districts in other parts of the community. We’ll be interested to see who takes part in the program and how the new SSMID list fits together with all of the other development and investment initiatives across the city in new housing, amenities and business development.
Taking a proactive step to encourage planning, instead of requests for city funding on a project-by-project basis, should provide more bang for the bucks invested. The new program has all the makings of a success.
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