SELMA – Beautification and revitalization efforts are underway for Selma’s downtown area thanks to the Downtown Selma Business Improvement District’s (BID) recent work in formulating an action plan to put its funding to use.
The Selma City Council unanimously approved the BID’s six-month budget and 2024 operating plan at its meeting on Jan. 16 after hearing a presentation from BID Advisory Board member Parminder Singh on the district’s goals and programs for the coming year. Singh, members of the council and members of the public spoke about how they are excited to see the downtown come to life once again.
“There’s a lot of improvements going on and there’s very positive signs of what’s to come; the best is yet to come,” Singh said.
The BID formed in October 2022 through a collaboration between the city and downtown business owners, according to the city of Selma’s website. Singh said its goal is to create a vibrant and inviting downtown, and he hopes the city gets to a point where businesses are vying to get a downtown location.
The budget approved at the meeting was for BID activities for the period of Jan. 16 to June 30 and outlined the BID’s revenue sources and how it plans to use its current fund balance of $86,000.
Singh said the BID began 2024 with a $11,000 fund balance and received a $50,000 allocation from the city council in the city’s 2023-24 budget. The district will also generate an estimated $25,000 in revenue from the 2024 BID assessment, which is a fee assessed to all businesses within the downtown district that is 100% of the city’s business licensing fee.
Of the budget, $8,500 will go toward marketing efforts, $45,000 will go toward beautification projects and $28,000 will go toward the BID’s pilot Business Improvement Grant Program, with a contingency balance of $4,500 left over, Singh said.
One focus of the BID this year will be increasing community engagement through social media and cross-promotions with other businesses, Singh said. The BID has created an Instagram and Facebook account with the handle @downtownselma to reach more residents; Singh said the goal is to increase social media engagement by 200% and amass 2,000 followers by the end of the year.
“We’ve started promoting businesses and the operators of those businesses in the BID,” Singh said. “Our goal is basically to highlight what is going on in the downtown in the businesses to make the residents aware — not just the residents, but the people around Selma — that they can find these goods and services in the heart of downtown Selma.”
The BID also plans to send out regular questionnaires through Google Forms to get feedback from the community. The goal is to have a 10% response rate for those questionnaires, Singh said.
For beautification, the BID plans to use a sizable chunk of its budget on clean-up efforts in the downtown. Singh said they are looking at pressure washing High Street and replacing or repairing the benches throughout downtown so that they look nicer and last longer.
Councilmember Sarah Guerra, as well as members of the public, asked about adding lighting to the downtown and bringing back the cafe lights — also known as string lights — that once adorned the trees that previously lined the streets.
Singh said they have a tiered approach to these improvements, starting with the basics and then moving along to more detailed elements.
Part of why they are not planning to immediately put up cafe lights in the downtown area, for example, is because they are working on a design theme for the area as part of the downtown strategic plan, which should be finished near the end of summer. Singh said they do not want to make big decisions without knowing those investments are going to be cohesive with the overall vision for the district.
“I don’t think that we should be waiting until summertime,” Guerra said. “It’s something that we need, and we need to really move forward with that because that’s one of the biggest issues and complaints that I get from our citizens.”
The BID is also looking at adding public art installations to downtown and putting in enhanced signage and wayfinding so that when people visit the area, they know they are in a distinct district of the city, Singh said.
Another element of beautification that the BID is working on has to do with the Business Improvement Grant Program, which will provide matching funds to downtown businesses for facade improvements. Singh said this grant would be ideal for businesses looking to replace windows, clean up their storefronts or make accessibility improvements to their entrances.
“Now we’re finally in motion, and that’s why we’re going to put out the facade grant,” Singh said. “And so we can actively pitch to business owners, ‘hey, there’s money available, we’re cycling that (fee) money right back to you,’ and we’re promoting businesses at the same time.”