BID looks for bigger projects to undertake

GLOVERSVILLE — The Downtown Business Improvement District is discussing small scale initiatives that the group can carry out in their continued revitalization efforts.

Following up the Placemaking 101 Conference hosted in the city last month by the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth and Downtown Development Specialist Jennifer Jennings as a primer on the scalable approach to economic development, BID Board or Directors President Jim Schlesier suggested Tuesday that board members come up with suggestions of small scale interventions that the group can undertake.

“My philosophy is that we can’t move forward if we just keep doing the stuff we’re doing. We can do it bigger and better, and I think we’re doing that with the wine and food festival this year, but we really need to come up with more projects and more ideas,” Schlesier said during the board meeting.

Schlesier asked the board members to come back next month with possible ideas of their own or from placemaking as a way to actively start making a visible, tangible impact to the area, hopefully inspiring more people to get involved.

“I think we need to do more so that people that are paying into the BID can say, ‘oh, I’m getting something for this,'” Schlesier said. “We really need to come up with more projects and more ideas and that’s going to take more people getting involved, not just a few people.”

Schlesier offered his own placemaking idea to get the ball rolling, proposing the BID form a “cash mob” that would see the board choosing a different downtown business to visit each month, with each individual member spending a set amount of money there.

“It gives you the opportunity to really see what people have in their store,” Schlesier said. “I think we’d find that there’s a lot of little shops that we really don’t know what goes on in there. It supports them, it’s informational to us and tells us what we have in our downtown and we can in turn tell other people. I can’t see any negative with it.”

Schlesier suggested the “cash mob” visitors could commit to spending $20 a piece, but board member Karen Smith questioned the ability to include all downtown businesses at that dollar amount, pointing to Castiglione Jewelers as a business that might be left out.

“I think part of the whole philosophy is, you don’t know. Do we really know for sure that we can’t go into Castiglione’s and find something for $20,” Schlesier asked.

The other board members agreed with Schlesier, saying they probably could find things to buy for $20 or less at the jewelry store. Councilman-at-Large and BID board member Vincent DeSantis also suggested the board tailor the spending amount to the business they’re visiting noting that $20 could seem like too much in some instances.

The board overwhelmingly voiced their support for the initiative, but Susan Casey argued that there are bigger issues across the city that these smaller downtown initiatives fail to address.

“You’re going to entice people to come downtown, great. They come they look, they go around the corner and they see a couch with 20 people with a beer out there, that half the house is falling down. You have to work with the city to spruce up the rest of the area, work out,” Casey said.

“I understand and I agree, but some of these problems are huge problems that need to be tackled,” Schlesier responded. “What I’m looking for right now is people to come back with simple ideas like I just brought up. I think that’s really simple and I think it’s doable and I think we can start there. We have to start somewhere.”

To start addressing these citywide concerns DeSantis said he is currently working to revise sections of the city code pertaining to blight to streamline the provisions making it easier for residents and property owners to understand what is and is not acceptable.

“I think that she’s absolutely right. If you have a downtown and it looks nice and it’s thriving and it’s clean and everything and it’s surrounded by derelict neighborhoods, it’s like a moat around the downtown. So it really is important to get in to attack blight very aggressively. It’s one of the things that’s on the top of my list and I’m really working to coordinate much stricter enforcement,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis said he should have the revisions complete by June after which he will work with the city to determine how to coordinate and increase code enforcement.

City Clerk Jennifer Mazur recommended that more residents attend bimonthly Common Council meetings to learn more about what the city is working on to tackle these issues and to bring their own ideas forward.

First Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss agreed, adding that resident driven committees and initiatives need an infusion of new members.

“I’m on several committees, but it seems like you always see the same group of people on committees,” Weiss said. “It needs to be expanded to include more people in order to get things done, because several people can’t do everything and that’s kind of the way it has been appearing to me for the last couple of years.”

Schlesier concurred saying the “cash mob” could be further discussed along with other ideas from the board at the next meeting on June 12.

“Come back to the next meeting with some ideas that we can tackle as a group,” Schlesier said. “We’re going to do positive things and we’re going to do things a little bit at a time so that those people decide they want to come.”