Newark's West Ward finally designated special improvement district

By Karen Yi | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
on January 04, 2017

NEWARK - Eager to revitalize the main thoroughfares of the West Ward, city officials approved the creation of a special improvement district that will use special tax dollars to beautify and draw new businesses to the area.

The special improvement district, or SID, will be the fifth such district in the city. The district will levy a special tax on commercial properties and residential buildings with four or more units - about 7 percent of assessed property value, West Ward Councilman Joseph McCallum said.

"All the wards have a special improvement district ... we were the last ward," McCallum said. "Taxes will go up obviously, on the businesses, but with that will come increased safety, increased beautification, people cleaning up the streets, facades, overall improvement."

McCallum said about 30 percent of storefronts are vacant in the ward. He's hoping the SID will lure new businesses and grow existing ones.

The SID includes parts of South Orange, Sanford and 18th Avenues as well as Mt. Vernon Place. Parts or all of West Market Street, Central Avenue, Orange Street, Roseville Avenue, Bergen Street and Park Avenue will be phased in over an 18-month period, according to the ordinance.

"You really don't get anything better than local residents and the businesses taking a concerted effort in helping to revitalize their neighborhood," said Deputy Mayor Baye Adofo-Wilson. "And their engagement and leadership in this SID is critical."

The Newark City Council approved the SID last month. A newly formed nonprofit, Partnership West, Inc., will manage the SID and its estimated $500,000 budget that will come from the special assessment. The nonprofit's board of directors will hire an executive director once its budget is approved by the council. 

Adofo-Wilson said residents could start seeing improvements as early as this spring. 

"I know the initial tasks we have to figure out are related to cleanliness and safety, those two things were points that the community explicitly expressed," said Pamela B. Daniels, president of the board of directors and outreach coordinator for the Unified Vailsburg Services Organization.

McCallum said though the district was formed after meetings with community members, there's still more work to do, including introducing the plan to more business owners. "We still in the beginning stages," he said. "We're not trying to force anything down people's throats."

City officials also plan to create a special improvement district along Bloomfield Avenue in the North and Central wards.

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