By Aaron Blevins, 11/08/2012
Melrose Avenue, famous as it is, has seen tough times since the economic fallout of 2008, and some local property owners are looking to restore its place among Los Angeles’ top retail destinations.
The effort to create a business improvement district (BID) from Fairfax Avenue to Highland Avenue has been underway for nearly two years. Organizers have nearly garnered enough support to move forward with the petition process, property owner Denis Weintraub said.
Weintraub, president of what is currently being called the Melrose Property Owners Association, said the ongoing process follows an earlier, failed attempt to create a BID in 1998.
“Now, there’s a huge commitment,” he said. “People have realized that Melrose will never gain back the international acclaim … unless we do something to get together and pour money into the street. I could see that we’re going to do very, very well. People want to see Melrose come back.”
The BID has the potential to impact 130 to 140 property owners along Melrose Avenue, and each property will likely have assessments of $2,000 to $6,000 per year. The money — approximately $486,000 annually — will be used for security, landscaping and lighting, while also addressing issues such as parking and graffiti removal.
“This is the property owners and the merchants taking control of their destiny,” Weintraub said.
Thus far, 42 percent of the property owners affected have approved the BID, and organizers need to secure 50 percent before the petition can proceed. If approved, the city will put a ballot election together, with the commercial property owners on Melrose Avenue voting.
“I’m confident it will happen,” Weintraub said. “I’m surprised it’s taken us the four or five months that it did.”
He said the initiative began in 2008, when business along Melrose “really took a nosedive.” Retailers and property owners were seeing business move to other locations with better security, lighting and parking, such as The Grove, Hollywood and Vine and the Hollywood BID coverage area, Weintraub said.
“Those streets were beginning to become more responsive to people coming in. …We were getting a beating,” he said, adding that property owners began to discuss the possibility of a BID on Melrose. “We decided that that’s what we needed.”
Weintraub said Melrose Avenue is still bustling, but “it’s not what it used to be.” And some of the perks the BID would offer — such as street cleaning — are too difficult for one property owner to handle, he said. On Tuesday, some of the gutter lanes were peppered with glass.
“I think things are going as good as they could be,” Weintraub added.
While there is not much opposition to the plan, some property owners feel that it should be the city’s responsibility to handle such tasks, he said. Weintraub, who, along with his wife, Sylvia, owns a building at 7600 Melrose Ave., said many area organizations are on board.
After deciding to move forward and undergoing a lengthy application process, the association received $40,000 in “seed money” from the city to hire a consultant, Weintraub said. The consultant, Don Duckworth, said the association’s petition could be ready in less than one month, and the election could be held 30 days after that.
“We could start sometime then in 2013,” Duckworth said. “We wanted to be able to start on Jan. 1. We’re not going to make that, but we’re going to be close.”
He helped establish the Hollywood BID, and noted that the district should be able to solve its biggest problems through the association.
“It’s going to make business better,” Duckworth said. “It’s going to expand the business. It’s going to bring in more customers. …It’s a mess right now. Anybody driving through right now can see that. It’s dirty. It doesn’t have the maintenance it needs. It’s not marketed … as a uniform entity.”
Weintraub said the association will be promoting full disclosure through the approval process, and invited anyone with questions or concerns to contact the group by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’re kind of working with everybody and working well with everybody,” Duckworth said.