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Property Tax Proposed to Boost Downtown Mall Revenue - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Property Tax Proposed to Boost Downtown Mall Revenue

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Proposed improvements on Charlottesville's iconic downtown mall won't come cheap.

There's talk of everything from new lighting to high-tech security cameras, all put in place by the city using taxpayer money, and a new tax on mall business to underwrite it. They're all costs that almost certainly will be passed along to shoppers and diners.

The Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville says the historic area is failing to keep up with its competition. Business owners and City Council are reconsidering the idea of a property tax to help give the mall a boost.

"The key is that we can't compete right now. We're failing in the marketplace. We're not even letting people know that we exist," said Bob Stroh, the association's co-chair.

Stroh says the iconic mall is falling off the map.

"We're now competing with very deep pockets for the same sales dollars, for the same customers and yet those deep pockets are able to spend an enormous amount of money on marketing and other funding sources and other funding means that we don't have," he said.

Charlottesville City Council and downtown businesses are reconsidering a self-imposed property tax in the form of a business improvement district.

"It really is the businesses - if they feel like they might want extra services, whether it's banners or lights in the trees or enhanced police or whatever that might be, that's more than other areas of the city get," said Vice Mayor Kristin Szakos.

Four committees tasked to assess concerns about the downtown mall presented recommendations to City Council Thursday night. The group's suggestions include increased policing, structural improvements, and more advertising. Though there is debate on several items, all agree change is necessary for the future of the downtown mall.

"We're sort of living off our past glory. It's great, people still love the downtown, but we have a responsibility to keep downtown healthy into the future and we can't do that by just pretending everything is the same," Stroh said.

The tax is an idea that has gone before City Council several times in the past decade. The Downtown Business Association says the discussion is being revisited because the competitive climate has changed a lot.

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