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Don Winett remembers when Melrose Avenue was a world-class destination — where buses carried tourists to snap photos, and the young and hip hung out in businesses that were open until midnight.
“Melrose was the place to go on a Saturday night,” Winett said. “We know it’s possible to have that kind of success again.”
That’s why he and other Melrose property owners, from La Brea to Fairfax avenues, met Tuesday night in an effort to rejuvenate the blighted areas and make their neighborhood a destination again.
Over the last five months, they have organized and are close to creating a “Business Improvement District” or BID, where businesses pay an additional tax or fee in order to fund improvements within that area, and to fill in the gaps in maintenance and security services the city can’t provide.
So far, the Melrose group has developed a preliminary budget of $350,000 to $500,000. The area has 136 parcels, owned by over 100 property owners.
Traditionally, the city has a certain amount of funding to help pay for consulting work for BIDs, but there is currently no funding available, said Paul Michael Neuman, the press deputy for Councilmember Paul Koretz, who represents District 5.
The last BID to receive money was the 3rd Street, between from Fairfax Avenue to La Cienega Boulevard.
Koretz said he has met with the Melrose property owners and supports their effort and is hoping the city can eventually help fund this and other BID projects.
“I heartily commend those who are moving this idea forward,” Koretz said. “I am here to help in any way that I can, and my office will do what we can to help find funding.”
Winett and his family have owned numerous properties on Melrose for 50 years, including the building that has the popular restaurant and bar, The Village Idiot.
But outside, overflowing trashcans, graffiti and vacant buildings dot the street. Grafitti on vacant store walls and gum is embedded into the sidewalk, “slap tags,” or stickers, cover metal posts.
“The economy has affected our area,” Winett said. “But we have seen what it once was, and we know it can happen again.”
Koretz said the formation of a BID can make a big difference in an area in terms of revitalization, but that forming one takes a lot of work and perseverance.
The typical cost of a BID is around $80,000, with the city and businesses splitting the cost.
The BID could form this year if additional city funds are found, Neuman said.
“There’s great value in forming a BID,” Neuman said. “At this time, it’s the only way to get quality services for a district. And on Melrose, they desperately need it.”
Once the BID is in place and funded, streetscape maintenance, including graffiti removal and trash pickup, would be a regular service. The BID would include promotion of the commercial areas, shared parking and valet services as well as increased security.
Melrose property owners here have already rolled out a marketing campaign to rename the area “Melrose Village.” By next year, they are hoping the BID is formed and funded through January 2012.
Denis Weintraub, property owner and member of the BID’s five-member steering committee, said by meeting with different property owners and working with merchants, an effort to clean up has some momentum behind it.
“There is a lot of excitement about turning the street around. I think we can do it,” Weintraub said.
Once a BID is approved by the city council, it normally kicks in funds to pay for a consultant who works with the city and the group of property owners to usher through the BID process.
Don Duckworth, a consultant who has ushered other BIDs though the city process, is volunteering his services until the city approves the Melrose BID.
Fred Rosenthal, a property owner on Melrose as well as Hollywood, spoke about forming a BID in 2006 for the Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street area.
“The city, if they had the money, would do it,” said Rosenthal. “But we had to start the effort.”
Rosenthal told the group of about 40 property owners in Tuesday night’s meeting at Fairfax High School that by hiring private security that patrols his BID area, hundreds of arrests are made a week.
Rosenthal said his neighborhood once looked similar to Melrose — businesses were closing, and a dirty streetscape would scare customers off, he said.
Winett said if property owners take a part in the responsibility, Melrose Village would be looking better in no time.
“With the economy the way it is, we need to spruce it up ourselves,” he said.
To find out more information about the Melrose BID or to contact the Melrose Village Property Association, call Denis Weintraub, at (818)342-9797.
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