Downtown services budget gets a boost

Chuck Padilla, left, shows off his seasonal playoffs uniform, and Gerald Wilbon, right, stops mid-ride to pose for a picture. (Sarah Nachbar/DD)

The Downtown Phoenix Partnership requested a five percent increase for their Municipal Services budget for 2018 yesterday at City Hall.

The Downtown, Aviation, Economy and Innovation Subcommittee recommended City Council approval of the 2018 budget increase Wednesday morning. The budget will now be presented at the City Council formal meeting Oct. 4, and will move on to a public hearing if it passes.

Councilwoman Thelda Williams thanked the partnership for the work they do for downtown Phoenix, saying they are a “key element in keeping our downtown alive.”

The Downtown Phoenix Partnership is requesting a total budget of nearly $4 million for 2018, which is an increase of over $175 thousand from 2017. Dan Klocke, the executive director of the partnership, said the enhanced expenditures will go toward marketing, events and the operations department to fund streetscape improvement and maintenance.

The report states the increase is “driven by fixed costs” such as utilities, liability and health insurance. The cost will also allow the partnership to increase services to the district including maintaining trees, trash pickup, graffiti removal and assistance with conventions.

A key feature of the services the Partnership offers to the Enhanced Municipal Services District (EMSD) includes the Downtown Phoenix Ambassadors, who are a source of security and information for downtown guests. They are a part of the Field Services Team who provides a multitude of services to downtown residents.

Katie Myers, the communication director of Chico Malo, said the work of the Ambassadors is “beyond helpful” to the restaurant.

Ambassador Guy Engard, ready to answer questions any passersby might have about Downtown Phoenix. (Sarah Nachbar/DD)

Myers said the ambassadors increase revenue for businesses with their newsletter, “What’s Happening” that highlights promotional events going on downtown. The ambassadors also provide security to downtown patrons by walking people to their cars or jumping car batteries.

With the increased budget, the Partnership will focus on more streetscape projects, public art projects, events and sidewalk sweeping.

The Enhanced Municipal Services District was formed in 1990 to provide enhanced public services to the businesses within the district. The EMSD is bound by Fillmore Street, Seventh Street, Third Avenue and the railroad tracks.

Services provided in this district are paid through taxes on the property owners and the general fund which is paid to the city through taxes on goods and services, according to Christine Mackay, the director of the Community and Economic Development department.

“The general fund is what’s used to support the services in the city: parks, libraries, streets, economic development,” said Mackay.

According to Klocke, the money raised in the district goes toward the partnership which is then applied to the EMSD only.

The Partnership manages the EMSD, and they have a contract with the city which allows them to handle the money that comes from the district.

According to Mackay, this district was created by the request of property owners in the area, and the property owners make up the board who set the budget and agenda.

Downtown Phoenix Inc., which steers the actions of the Partnership, holds meetings with board members to ask them what their vision is for downtown. This year the board members wanted to focus on enhancing the public realm, marketing and supporting events, and ongoing development and business attraction.

Klocke explained that for the Partnership to achieve these goals, they plan to increase connectivity with Visit Phoenix and the Phoenix Convention Center, and they want to create more residential and commercial infill.

“I know it seems like there’s a lot of vacant land to sell downtown, but there actually isn’t that much left,” said Klocke. “We need to be smart about how we use that land.”

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