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Iowa City’s South District exploring business revitalization program in hopes of strengthening entire community

Published: Feb. 14, 2021 at 10:26 PM CST
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Business owners and people who live in the South District of Iowa City believe they have an opportunity right now to bring prosperity to the area for years to come.

The South District Neighborhood Association is exploring the creation of a SSMID, a Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District, in the area.

The SSMID would be centered around Pepperwood Plaza, which sits along Highway 6 in the south part of Iowa City, and include part of the area bordering the plaza to the south, east, and west.

“It is the gateway from the neighborhood to the larger, commercial area to the west,” South District Neighborhood Association President Angie Jordan said of Pepperwood Plaza.

If the SSMID is established, commercial property owners in the area would pay an additional tax each year that would go to the SSMID, which would be run by a board of directors or commission.

“The revenue that’s collected from the levy would be used to collectively fund what property owners, businesses, and the neighborhood just aren’t able to do individually,” Jordan said.

For example, Jordan explained, the money could go toward projects like beautifying the area, creating signage for the district or its businesses, or incubating small businesses.

But she said the SSMID would strengthen the entire South District community, not just its businesses.

“If I can walk down the street and do all my shopping and get my entertainment and hang out with my friends and get a cup of coffee and go to exercise regularly, my wellbeing is increased. My quality of life is increased. I’m a homeowner, and my property values go up,” Jordan said.

For the SSMID to be created, 25% of property owners in the designated boundaries of the district need to sign a petition, and those signers’ properties have to make up at least 25% of the assessed value in the designated area.

Then the Iowa City city council must approve the creation of the SSMID before taxes can be levied.

SSMIDs have been established in the Iowa City Downtown District, Downtown Cedar Rapids, and the Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District in Cedar Rapids, among other locations across the state.

Jordan said the South District would benefit from a SSMID as well.

“It’s extremely diverse — age, background, color, all the things,” she said. “And so the SSMID is an opportunity to bring people who live here and love it here together with the businesses and the property owners and just create more value together.”

Tasha Lard, who owns JD Beauty Supply in Pepperwood Plaza, supports starting the SSMID, believing it would bring in more foot traffic and more neighbors to her store.

“It makes other businesses want to come to the area and kind of connect so we all can grow,” she said.

Lard herself is already trying to do the work to better the South District.

Since opening her store in September, she has welcomed other small businesses to leave their cards in a part of her space called the “business corner,” a way for them to attract more customers.

“This is something actually in my store I’m proud of, because it’s my way of helping the community grow as well,” she said.

That type of collaboration between businesses, property owners, and their neighbors would be an aspect of the SSMID that would strengthen the South District, according to Jordan.

“It’s a very long-term investment that kind of hinges on the belief that we are more powerful together. We are mighty in a collaborative effort, and this isn’t a one-time thing. This isn’t a big donation. This is our commitment to each other,” Jordan said.

Six information and input sessions will be held for people to learn more about the SSMID and give feedback. People interested in attending the virtual sessions can email the South District Neighborhood Association for the Zoom registration.

  • Thursday, Feb. 18
    • 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. (virtual)
    • 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. (virtual)
    • 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. (in-person at Open Heartland, 1027 Highway 6 East, Iowa City; masks required)
  • Thursday, Feb. 25
    • 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. (virtual)
    • 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. (virtual)
    • 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. (in-person at Open Heartland, 1027 Highway 6 East, Iowa City; masks required)

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