A BID to liven up districts

Some precincts in Singapore could soon look more vibrant, with the Government giving groups of businesses matching grants of up to $500,000 a year, for the first four years of a pilot scheme.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority on Tuesday invited businesses to submit proposals for four-year business plans to improve their areas.

The pilot Business Improvement District (BID) scheme could eventually be formalised in legislation, depending on interest.

This scheme may well fulfil the Government's aim to promote ground-up efforts to spruce up districts.

Indeed, the BID framework has been successfully implemented overseas - as in the case of New York City's Times Square Alliance, which was founded in 1992 and prompted a sharp fall in crime, and a surge in footfall and property value.

It could take a while for it to gain traction in Singapore.

In the pilot BID scheme, interested stakeholders must canvass for support from 51 per cent of businesses that own properties in the precinct. These businesses must, in turn, raise 51 per cent of their total potential contribution amount.

The BID scheme, once legislated, should address an existing "free-rider" problem in districts where those who do not contribute still benefit from the voluntary contributions of other stakeholders.

In the pilot, however, only businesses that vote in support of the proposal need to contribute funds.

Still, the Government's dollar-for-dollar matching fund is an attractive incentive, and some parties are already showing interest.

Mr Cheng Hsing Yao, group managing director of GuocoLand Singapore, said he likes how the scheme could encourage local stakeholders to collaborate and "synergise" to make their district a more attractive destination.

While it is still early days, the BID could be instrumental in helping districts sustain their local character, while encouraging local stakeholders to take ownership of improving their districts for the long haul.

Toh Wen Li

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2017, with the headline 'A BID to liven up districts'. Print Edition | Subscribe