SOUDERTON — The café lighting on Main Street, the community digital sign, and the mural on the Chestnut Street overpass and other beautification projects are some of the things the Souderton Business Improvement District has been involved in since being started in 2016, the BID said in presentations made as the group seeks re-authorization for a second five-year term beginning in January of 2021.

“Hosting events like the super popular Third Fridays bring our local community together as well as bring people into our community,” Liz Peitzman, the BID's coordinator, said during a Sept. 29 presentation.

Recent additions include new custom-made public seating at the parking lot at Hillside Avenue and Main Street and placement around town of vintage newspaper vending machines that were repainted by local artists, said Harry Boardman, one of the BID's District Advisory Council members. A placard on top of the former newspaper vending machines, which were donated by the Souderton Independent, lists the BID businesses along with showing a map.

Held as a Zoom meeting because of the pandemic-related guidelines on public meetings, the Sept. 29 meeting followed a similar one held in August, with both recorded for posting on the website. Information about the BID and the plans if the re-authorization is approved, along with a Frequently Asked Questions section, are also included on the website.

“Re-authorization for the next five years will give the opportunity to continue to move towards our goal of strong and steady economic development for our community,” Peitzman said.

The new proposal is to expand the BID to include all of the business properties in Souderton Borough. It currently is primarily along Main and Broad streets. BID information says there are currently 149 properties in the BID and the expansion would bring that number to 196.

Under the plan, the BID and Souderton-Telford Main Streets would merge to become one organization, named Souderton Connects, with a focus on Souderton.

“Continuation of the Souderton BID will allow property owners to commit resources to collectively market and promote the area and its businesses in a coordinated manner. The district-wide services funded through the BID will assist Souderton in becoming a vibrant and diverse hub of shopping, dining, and entertainment experiences and aid in attracting additional customers and investors to the area which will leverage additional revenue entering the community,” the BID wrote in the vision section of the re-authorization plan.

The BID is funded by business property owners in the district paying an assessment equaling 4.5 percent of the amount paid for school, county and borough property taxes. With the proposed expansion, that would bring in about $80,000 per year, according to BID information, which shows a proposed 2021 budget with expenses of $18,000 for economic development, $20,000 for business community support, $11,000 for marketing and advertisement, $11,000 for streetscape and beautification, and $20,000 for administrative and professional services.

The assessment is for business properties only.

Under state rules for BID authorization, the plan is approved unless 40 percent or more of the business property owners in the district give written notice that they are not in favor.

“If a property owner who is listed in there is in full agreement with the BID and the services of the BID, the property owner really needs to do nothing, but if a property owner has concern or objects to being included in that, that property owner must submit a written statement to Souderton Borough Council simply stating the objection,” Borough Manager Mike Coll said at Souderton Borough Council's September 21 work session meeting.

“It has to come from the property owner. It needs to be in a letter form, signed, and it needs to be received no later than November 12,” Coll said.

There is no ballot for the vote and if a property owner does not vote it is considered a yes vote. Information on the voting process is available in the FAQ section of the website.

The Sept. 29 session also included a presentation by Bill Gehrman, the owner of en route, a marketing company based in Center City Philadelphia, that is about to launch a new marketing campaign after having been hired by the BID.

“Nobody wants to be a best kept secret, so we're hoping to tell everybody about you,” Gehrman said.

The company has been working for three months on a campaign to generate awareness and visitation for the town, he said.

Visitation previously meant feet in the street, but, particularly in light of the coronavirus pandemic, has taken on another aspect, he said.

“Sometimes the online e-commerce aspect of this is just as important for some of you,” Gehrman said.

“We want people to know that Souderton is there, that you're open for business and we want people to come and support local businesses and small businesses,” he said.

“We want to give them plenty of reasons that they should come visit,” he said, “for history, shopping, entertainment and outdoor activities.”

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