Hoping to revitalize a section of Westchester between two educational institutions with a more pedestrian-friendly and visually appealing atmosphere, community leaders are calling for a business improvement district along a stretch of Lincoln Boulevard.
Some Westchester community members say that the portion of Lincoln Boulevard between Loyola Marymount University (LMU) and the Otis College of Art and Design, an area known to locals as Loyola Village, is in need of some enhancements, such as sidewalk repair and beautification. Though it is home to a number of thriving businesses and restaurants, the area could become more walker-friendly and needs to address homeless issues associated with the Westchester park, some residents say.
Looking to make some needed improvements in an area that connects two campuses of higher learning, community members say they have approached City Councilman Bill Rosendahl to consider implementing a business improvement district (BID) for the stretch of Lincoln.
ìWe think itís definitely a way of empowering ourselves in Westchester to further advance this area,î said Heather Lemmon, a local business owner who has been active in the BID effort.
A BID establishes a geographically defined zone where commercial property owners can vote to impose a self-tax to supplement security, homeless services, streetscape maintenance, marketing and promotional support for the area surrounding their businesses. For a district to take effect, a simple majority of affected property owners must vote in favor of the zone following City Council approval.
Residents who have worked with other business districts note that the zones can help upgrade an area like Loyola Village, which is in need of sidewalk and infrastructure repair.
ìWe think itís real important and there are a number of things that a BID might do that would make a tremendous impact on the area,î said Don Duckworth, executive director of the Westchester BID. ìThe more people who are working to promote more business and a healthy community the better.î
Establishing a business district for the section of Lincoln can help with beautification and marketing efforts and also address the issue of homelessness at the park by helping connect the population with resources, he said.
Duckworth and other community members helped implement another Westchester BID along Sepulveda Boulevard in 2007, which they say has given district members more authority on making decisions on how to improve their area. Businesses along Lincoln, such as the Custom Hotel and Decron Properties, as well as Otis College, considered the potential improvements of a BID and approached Rosendahl to propose a district for their area.
Lemmon said the BID along Sepulveda has made ìhuge stridesî for the area, with sidewalk repairs and the planting of trees, and businesses would like to see similar changes for Lincoln to encourage more pedestrian usage.
ìWe want to clean up the boulevard and improve it,î she said. ìIt would bring more vitality to the community, more beautification, and it would be more secure.î
Rosendahl said the section of Westchester between LMU and Otis College provides ìa real sense of community,î and the area already has the feel of a business district.
ìItís become a business district and as a business district it needs to have a BID so that it can take a leadership role and help create a future there,î Rosendahl said. ìItís already a district and it needs to have that commitment from the businesses there.î
The councilman recently submitted a proposal to the City Council requesting $40,000 in funding to hire consultants to recommend whether a business district should be established between LMU and Otis College. The consultants will collect data, conduct surveys, organize meetings with local business owners and assess boundaries for the potential BID.
Rosendahl said he is enthused about the opportunity to have another business district in Westchester but he noted that a key factor is convincing the businesses in the area that itís in their best interests.
ìItís the right strategy to upgrade the business community,î he said.
Otis College President Samuel Hoi echoed the councilmanís support for a BID along the Westchester corridor.
ìWe chose Westchester as our home site because we feel it is a comfortable, safe and welcoming community,î Hoi said. ìAny further improvements that make the district more attractive and better to live in and help the businesses will be very helpful.î
The college president said many members of the Otis community live in the area and added that any improvements to the neighborhood would help enhance their quality of life. The college is working with the Business Improvement District Committee on the plans and Hoi said Otis would like to contribute to the districtís art and design presence.
Duckworth said the business district committee is working to get the support of businesses in the Lincoln area as part of the effort to make the community more walkable, dynamic and vital.
ìWestchester is a wonderful community and it has a wonderful opportunity ahead,î he said. ìThis is an effort to capitalize and optimize that future for everybody.î