More than 500 people pedaled through Magnolia Park Saturday afternoon, just as nearby commercial property owners are gearing up to extend a self-imposed fee that pays for events including the Magical Magnolia Bicycle Tour.
The tour brought out cyclists for prizes, bike and helmet painting and other activities. Merchants say the event is just one of the benefits of the business improvement district that landlords launched in 2006, agreeing to raise $250,000 annually to pump up prospects near Magnolia Boulevard and Hollywood Way.
With the business improvement district set to expire this year, members of the Magnolia Park Partnership are now preparing to vote in July on whether to extend it for another five years.
“We’re paying a lot yearly, but I believe it is well worth it,” Paul Long, president of Kappa Studios, said.
The district has launched events such as the vintage car show “Be-Bopping in the Park,” which drew 15,000 people last August and paid for holiday decorations, street improvements and business promotions. The district also paid for diagonal parking slots off Hollywood Way, making it is easier for shoppers to park near the busy intersection near Porto’s Bakery.
“The momentum of the [business improvement district] has been great,” Ira Lippman, owner of the Peggy Woods Pet Emporium and the Jelly Bean Factory on Hollywood Way. “The most effective use has been generating parking space.”
The district has set aside $200,000 to add 50 parking spaces at Magnolia Boulevard between Kenwood and Maple streets.
Commercial property owners pay between 5 and 25 cents per square foot for their buildings each year, and between 6 and 12 cents per square foot on their lots. Residential property owners and nonprofits do not pay into the district.
The district boundaries extend from Chandler Boulevard south to Clark Avenue, and from Buena Vista Street west to the city limit.
Critics of the Magnolia Park business district, including two property owners who declined to speak on the record because they feared creating friction with other members, question the costs and whether the improvements appear to mostly benefit businesses, like Porto’s and clothing boutiques, that depend on foot traffic.
Long, whose company does post-production work for television and movies, said he was skeptical of the district at first. But he said the clients of his industrial enterprise benefit.
“When you have a place where they can come, places to eat and where they can walk, it really helps,” Long said.
Property owners are now circulating petitions to extend the life of the district. After the petitions are approved by the City Council, officials would then call for a vote of property owners. If owners representing 50% or more of the property approve, the district would continue, said city business district manager Gail Stewart.
Audrey Robles, owner of the boutique audrey k, said it was fun Saturday to see families riding together on Chandler Boulevard, with children bringing Magnolia Park “passport” books to stores to get the stamps that would earn them prizes.
“Everyone is stepping up their game and really trying to promote their business in a way that I think helps the neighborhood,” she said.