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Sub-Committee to Head SID Discussion

Candace Braun

After receiving a formal report from the Downtown Business Assessment Team (DBAT) on how to create a special improvement district (SID) in town, members of Princeton Future's Community-Based Neighborhood Retail Initiative are forming a subcommittee to promote the positive ways a SID could change the face of Princeton.

CBNR, a group representing area merchants, retail owners, and municipal leaders, met on Friday, September 10, to review the report that followed a visit from the DBAT at the end of July. While there was not an overall consensus on how the group will move forward with creating an improvement district, it is apparent that members of the community are in favor of moving in that direction.

"The town is not working the way it needs to work. We are trying to find a solution," said Raoul Momo, a partner of the Terra Momo Restaurant Group. "We need a SID. It is the only entity which has the power to get what needs to get done, done."

Bob Bruschi, Borough administrator, added that he can't imagine anything that a SID might do that he would be against.

According to the report, a special improvement district could help establish the maintenance of the town, including sidewalk cleaning and graffiti removal; the recruitment and development of business; work on the maintenance of park and open space areas, as well as tree and flower planting; and marketing for public events and holiday decorations.

A SID could also help maintain public safety officers and provide visitor assistance, as well as capital improvements such as streetlights, custom trash receptacles, directional street signage, and streetscapes.

Before a SID can be established, however, a positive relationship needs to be formed between the town and the University, according to the report.

"First and foremost is the opportunity to welcome Princeton University as a partner, rather than as a source of revenue or a burden on the community," the report said, adding that the University could help develop an image for the town through its marketing and art departments; conduct a retail analysis of Princeton through a survey distributed to students; and provide links and information about downtown businesses on the University's website.

The DBAT's recommended two-year plan of action is to put together a steering committee of between 11 and 15 people, hire an experienced consultant to help oversee the SID, and hire staff to run it. The DBAT recommends that the town then develop five main issues to address; establish goals and a time line to meet them; and devise a plan for how they will be funded.

Positive relationships should also be established with Township officials, local newspapers, non-profits, and cultural establishments.

The report recommends that those operating the SID then begin implementing a marketing plan, streetscape, and signage within the next three to five years. After that, long range plans should include getting more liquor licenses in town, and consolidating governments and share services between the Borough and Township.

However, the report finds that while Princeton is committed to moving forward and finding a way to revitalize the town, the community as a whole has a lack of shared vision, leadership, cohesiveness in goals, and no effective plan for enforcement of those goals.

"Each group has worked diligently and with good intentions to come up with a strategy to address their own issues," but "no one has really worked to produce a plan that addresses all of the issues of the different groups that would be affected," said the report.

Sheldon Sturges, co-chair of Princeton Future, said that moving forward on a positive note should help encourage more unity in the community: "How we all live together; that's what it's about."

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