Frequently Asked Questions
The Downtown Reno Partnership is the first business improvement district in Nevada so we understand that you may have questions whether you live in downtown Reno or just want to know more about the ins and outs of BIDs. For information about the ambassadors, our board or the management team, please visit those sections of the website.
A business improvement district (BID) is a specifically designated area of a city where property owners (sometimes business owners) pay an additional tax to fund projects, improvements and marketing within that district’s boundaries. In Reno’s case, all property owners within the boundary are assessed a property tax fee to pay for the BID. These districts typically fund services that city governments cannot keep up with using its existing tax revenues, such as cleaning streets, providing security, making capital improvements, construction of pedestrian and streetscape enhancements and marketing. The services provided by BIDs supplement that city’s existing tools and resources and do not replace them. Source: Wikipedia and City of Reno
The City of Reno researched business improvement districts since 2014; making visits to other cities, engaging with groups like Operation Downtown and seeking community input. The Progressive Urban Management Associates and Urban Land Institute both recommended that the City of Reno create a business improvement district, too.
In order to create the district, the business and property owners in the district petitioned the city to create the self-imposed fee and governance structure. A majority approval is required to create the BID. More than 500 property owners, or 61% of the district, were in favor of the BID, while 16 property owners, or 1%, were against it. Other property owners in the district did not participate in the petition.
The Downtown Reno Partnership business improvement district boundaries come from the previous Special Assessment Districts in downtown Reno. The boundaries are roughly Keystone Avenue on the West and Wells Avenue on the East. The Powning Historic District and Wells Avenue Historic District are excluded. The boundaries on the North stop roughly at Interstate 80 but extend into the University of Nevada, Reno’s Gateway District. The boundaries on the South stop at California Avenue except where it extends around the Wild Orchid strip club on Saint Lawrence Avenue and Forest Street.
Click the above photo for a larger image.
The Downtown Reno Partnership is a 501(c)6 nonprofit business improvement district that replaces two previous City of Reno special assessment districts that paid for maintenance and additional police in Reno’s core.
Property owners will see a line item on their annual Washoe County property tax bill. That assessment is based on their property’s value, their location in the district, type of property and type of business. Washoe County collects those taxes and funnels the specific line item to the City of Reno, which then writes a check to the Downtown Reno Partnership.
For example, commercial properties along Virginia Street pay the highest fee on their taxes to pay for additional street cleaning and police services while homeowners and nonprofits on the edges of downtown pay the least.
The BID can also take contributions to help pay for more ambassadors, police, maintenance, marketing or operations. Because it is a 501(c)6, those donations are considered business expenses and not charitable tax-free donations.
The first year (2018-2019 fiscal year) budget is $2.35 million.
- About $725,000 of that pays for the 14 ambassadors, their manager and equipment.
- Another $725,000 pays for six Reno Police officers in order to maintain previous police force paid for by the previous special assessment district.
- About $400,000 pays for the management staff, operations and marketing materials.
- The last $500,000 pays for the City of Reno staff who perform maintenance and cleaning throughout the district.
If you do not live within the BID boundaries, then you pay nothing. If you are renting or leasing a living space or business space, you also pay nothing.
If you own property within the boundaries your fee is calculated from several factors in 2019/2020 fiscal year.
- Standard service: $0.005027 per $1 of property assessed value
- Premium service: $0.005027 per $1 of property assessed value plus $10.87/foot of linear sidewalk frontage
- PremiumPlus service: $0.005027 per $1 of property assessed value plus $18.88/foot of linear sidewalk frontage
*Nonprofit uses will receive a 50% discount on the assessment rate, while residential properties will pay 85% of the standard assessment rate.
If this math is too complicated, don’t fret. The City of Reno has created an interactive map that shows the current fee for every property in downtown compared to the previous Special Assessment District (the City of Reno’s police and maintenance district).
Depending on your property’s location, the BID will offer three levels of clean and safety services, which correspond with the above fee structure.
- Standard services will be provided throughout the entire district and include safety, on-demand spot cleaning, and marketing. Teams of safety ambassadors will be deployed district-wide and will focus on crime deterrence and engagement with street populations and visitors.
- Premium services will add maintenance patrols within the core of downtown, concentrated on litter and graffiti removal, public furniture cleaning, power washing, and more.
- Premium-plus services are concentrated along the Virginia Street corridor and include additional daily maintenance.
In May 2019, the Reno City Council re-approved property owner assessments to fund the Downtown Reno Partnership. Since the original assessments came from 2017 property values for our first year and 2019 property values for the following fiscal year, we decreased the standard assessment formula to compensate for the increased property values throughout the district.
All downtown properties increased in value an average of 26% during that time (meaning that some also went down while others went up). In real numbers that means that residential properties might’ve seen an increase anywhere from $20 to $150 per year in most cases while commercial properties could see more. And new development (meaning from dirt to building) would see significantly higher increase in property value and therefore assessment.
The partnership’s new budget of $2.7M (previously $2.3M) starts July 1, 2019.
As property values continue to increase, so too would the assessment. The board will continue to balance the needs of downtown with the changes in assessment over time.
In addition to the ambassadors, maintenance and police meant to enhance safety, cleanliness and friendliness of the district, the business improvement district also provides economic development and marketing services for property and business owners.
The goal of the marketing manager is to increase business activity for existing operators through joint campaigns, social media and community building. The BID’s management team will also attract new investment to downtown to enhance property values, sales and occupancy.
The Downtown Reno Partnership business improvement district is set to last 10 years (2028) with a formal evaluation in year five (2023). To renew the BID, a new petition process will be started. Nationally, 99% of BIDs are renewed because the property owners are satisfied with their results, according to research by the City of Reno.
The Downtown Reno Partnership’s $2.35 million budget covers various services, including additional Reno police officers who have been patrolling the district since 1998. But, converting the City of Reno’s special assessment/improvement districts into a business improvement district created a funding gap for the full cost of these police services. To close the gap, generous supporters of the partnership’s mission pledged more than $625,000 annually for the first three years to ensure those existing patrols are maintained. The remaining cost will be filled by the City of Reno’s general fund.