West Side Avenue, Jersey City. Photo via Google Maps/Street View.
A controversial proposal that would use new tax revenue assessed on about 300 commercial properties to spruce up one of Jersey City’s major retail corridors is scheduled to be voted on by the City Council this week.
Late last month, Jersey City’s council voted 8-0 to introduce an ordinance that would create the West Side Avenue Special Improvement District (SID). The area that would be affected by the ordinance is large and spans over two miles from West Side Avenue’s northern tip near the PATH’s train tracks all the way south to Stegman Parkway. The district would also include a stretch of Communipaw Avenue that runs from Kennedy Boulevard west to Route 440.
The ordinance would create and collect a new assessment on all commercial properties, including multi-tenant residential rental buildings, that would need to be paid by the owner of the land. The assessment would run $18 per square foot of retail storefront space, but buildings that contain only residential units would be exempt from paying the new fees.
The new assessment would be collected by the city along with the regular property tax payment and then transferred to the District Management Corporation, which would run the Special Improvement District as a private-public partnership. That entity would then use the funds to promote economic growth within the district in a variety of ways, including providing additional security and sanitation services to supplement what the city currently provides.
In addition, the creation of a SID for West Side Avenue would allow the group to fund exterior improvements of properties in the district through grants or loans, finance the rehabilitation of properties in the district, and undertake streetscape improvements designated to increase the safety or attractiveness of the district. The SID could also work to recruit new businesses to fill vacancies and balance the mix of vendors in the district, plus foster and encourage self-help programs to enhance the local business climate.
The possible creation of a new assessment to fund the West Side Avenue SID is being considered just weeks after Jersey City unanimously passed a new non-resident payroll tax to be paid by businesses that will take effect in January next year. It also comes just a year after a city-wide property revaluation led to tax hikes on some properties, although Downtown neighborhoods generally bore the brunt of that reality.
Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey, who represents the area, has said she favors the latest Special Improvement District, which would be the city’s seventh if created. The council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance’s 2nd reading at their December 19 meeting.