The Intersector Project
A Business Improvement District (BID) is “a public-private partnership in which property and business owners elect to make a collective contribution to the maintenance, development, and promotion of their commercial district,” according to the NYC Neighborhood Development Division. While these responsibilities typically fall to local government, BIDs bring together private-sector stakeholders to improve these services in their neighborhoods, where the public sector may not have the resources to make a difference on its own. One key neighborhood issue that is less frequently tackled by BIDs is poverty, but in a recent piece in Next City, Matt Bergheiser, Executive Director of the University City District (UCD) in Philadelphia, makes a compelling case for how BIDs can be influential in tackling unemployment and poverty through strong partnerships with local institutions.
“Could a platform established decades ago to shape the physical well-being of urban centers offer an answer to the challenge of economic disconnection in city neighborhoods?” Bergheiser asks. For the UCD, the answer has been yes. The District recognized the disparity between growth and opportunity in University City and its surrounding neighborhoods, where 81,000 people live in poverty, and unemployment remains at 15 percent. To address this problem, UCD created the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, a workforce development and job training effort, and embedded this work within the BID.
“If BIDs want to create livable and vital cities and neighborhoods, then an all-in strategy to leverage relationships for inclusive opportunity seems essential.”