The Business Loop Community Improvement District is pleased to present our 2019 Annual Report. Our mission is to improve the environment and the economy of The Loop and we’ve made significant progress in both of those areas with our Loop Corridor Plan and our Small-Scale Manufacturing Plan.
Property assessments remain stable; the slight decrease was the result of one property shifting over to a not-for-profit use. (The new residential tracking is the result of a change in how Boone County provides the information to us.)
Public improvements outlined in the Loop Corridor Plan will give property owners additional confidence in the future of the area and will help spur additional private investment. Our Small-Scale Manufacturing plan is also designed to increase smart development along the corridor, leading to fewer unused lots and more active, vibrant spaces.
The corridor is home to more than 150 businesses with a strong focus on home improvement and auto sales and service. The area is still underserved by restaurants, which are a common way to keep sales local and tax revenues on track.
Sales tax revenues have declined in a manner similar to Columbia as a whole, with revenues currently at 8.6% of last year (representing less than $20,000). However, last year we saw a 7% increase over the previous year so it’s clear we are still a young organization and it will take several years to determine the ebbs and flows of our specific retail climate. Additionally, with a relatively small number of retailers we are seeing that even the loss of a single business has a disproportionate impact on sales revenues.
Still, our rental rates remain the most affordable in the city, giving us an advantage when it comes to attracting local startups and our Small-Scale Manufacturing Plan is a comprehensive, multi-year effort to attract and support new businesses to the area. It also shows our understanding of the nationwide changes impacting traditional retail and how we can work towards a more diverse collection of businesses.
The Loop generated nearly $1.15 million in city sales tax, demonstrating that The Loop is a key economic generator for Columbia.
Small Scale Manufacturing Project
The Loop CID was one of six communities in the nation to receive a federal grant to encourage local, small-scale manufacturing as a way to revitalize the corridor in a manner that remains true to the character of the street and to the existing business mix. The top action items include the following:
Establish a Clear Vision for The Loop
While our Loop Corridor Plan presents a vision of a street with working infrastructure, accessible streets and sidewalks, landscaping, and public art, we need buildings to house local makers and provide an active and attractive component to the street. We’ve begun creating a visual guide to building styles and materials and drafting a handful of test cases for the new Unified Development Code (UDC).
Build upon Catalytic Partnerships
Often it takes one catalytic project to see the possibilities in an area. The Business Loop has worked with Boone Electric Cooperative to activate a vacant lot, Moberly Area Community College – Columbia to develop a makerspace at Parkade Plaza, and Mizzou North and REDI to brainstorm on shared kitchen space. The Loop CID can also seek developers interested in creating spaces for small manufacturing and serve as a match maker between property owners and tenants and between manufacturers and potential employees.
Help Make City Processes Predictable and Transparent
Small-scale manufacturing hasn’t been a focus in Columbia so the details of building a manufacturing space or permitting a business are not well-established. We are currently working with the city to refine the definition of Artisan Industry in the UDC to better reflect what makers are already doing and we’ve developed a series of test cases designed to make it easier to develop and permit small-scale manufacturing.
Activate The Loop with Branding and Programming
Our goal is to bring people to the street now, in anticipation of new development. If people are excited about an area, developers and businesses become interested as well. We’ve teamed with Boone Electric and Parkade Plaza to create two new public spaces and we’ve been actively programming our Pop-Up Park with a series of events designed to bring people to The Loop, showcase the diversity of Columbia’s maker community and Loop businesses, as well as establish The Loop as a place all are welcome.
Provide Business Development Support
We’re currently referring makers and artisans to counseling services at REDI and MO Women’s Business Center. We’re also reaching out to banks and other business funding sources to create links to potential manufacturers, including those who have been impacted by racial, social, and economic inequality and may not have ready access to business mentoring or financing.
The complete plan is available at COMOMAKES.com
We’ve taken action on many of the threshold projects identified in the Loop Corridor Plan. Although we must rely on MODOT and the City of Columbia for major infrastructure projects, there are several projects we’ve done that are designed to activate the street, create excitement, and demonstrate our commitment to improvements. This year we have:
- Transformed a vacant lot into a community park with the help of Boone Electric, Sherwin-Williams, and volunteers with ForColumbia. We now have a place for special events, public gatherings, or just meeting friends for lunch. We’ve also programmed the space with Saturday STEAM Bus Brunches, Loop Happy Hours, and some private events. Not only are we activating previously unused space and drawing people to The Loop, it’s proof-of-concept for future development.
- Installed a bike repair station at Parkade Plaza with a grant from the Columbia Board of REALTORS®, help from their local agents, and volunteers with ForColumbia. Now cyclists on the MKT-Parkade Bike Boulevard have a place to rest and fill their tires.
- Created a toolkit of environmental graphics which reflects our brand and the vibe of the street. Already, the graphics are being used in public space signage and colorful stencils are brightening up empty stretches of asphalt.
- Refined the definition of Artisan Industry and created a set of development templates as part of our continuing efforts to work with the city to make it easier for makers and small manufacturers to build and locate on The Loop. This is an ongoing project.
- Made substantial progress on a shared commercial kitchen in cooperation with REDI and Mizzou North, with the ultimate goal of encouraging the growth of local food entrepreneurs by reducing barriers and creating opportunities for those without easy access to a certified kitchen.
FY 2019 Budget
We are anticipating $384,288 in revenues for fiscal year 2020 and $334,425 in expenditures. We are setting aside $50,000 for the fund balance to ensure we have a 6-month emergency fund and as a way to set aside funds for larger, long-term projects.
For the full FY2020 Budget and supporting documents, visit our website at theloopcomo.com.
We could not have accomplished these projects without help from business owners, property owners, residents, and fans who see a bright future for the Business Loop. When 120 volunteers show up on a rainy Saturday to build a park, you know you’re doing something right.
On behalf of the entire board I want to thank everyone for their support, their input, and their commitment to making The Loop a vital and innovative corridor.
Our entire 2019 Annual Report is available for download. We also have hard copies available in our office at 601 Business Loop 70 West, #128 and if you’d like some for your business, just let us know.