The Downtown Business Improvement District Board is going to consider the idea of hiring an outside marketing agency to help it develop a name for the area as part of a branding strategy.
The volunteer board, made of property and business owners within the downtown district, met on July 10th in a conference room at City Hall on the third level of the Columbus Community Building. Much of the meeting was spent combing over the near-200 name suggestions received from the public via a free online survey.
The public suggestions included “Powerhouse District,” “Downtown Columbus,” “River District,” “Brick Stone District,” “Frankfort District,” “Columbus Brick District,” “Old Town Road,” “Main Street,” “The Depot,” “Railyard District” and “Pawnee Village.”
Board members indicated they were pleased with the number of responses and liked many of the suggestions. The conversation included pointing out that Columbus needed to develop a name for the district that was distinctively different than those in nearby communities like Omaha, Norfolk, and Grand Island.
Board President Josh Johnson noted the Union Pacific railroad tracks that run through the center of downtown between 11th and 13th streets, highlighting the suggestions from the public that related to it.
“That’s been a pivotal part of our town’s history,” Johnson said. “We are here because of those trains.”
Board member Dick Tooley said he had concerns about incorporating the railroad system into the naming of downtown, indicating the railroad has been a point of contention for himself and others in Columbus throughout the years.
Board member Kristin Stock, of Artzy Haven, suggested “The Junction” as a possible naming option, noting the intersection of highways all around downtown.
Looking through all the responses, the board members found four major themes through all of them: History, the railroad system, the Loup and Pawnee rivers and the highway junctions in town.
Still, the board collectively decided it would be best to take the suggestions and four points of focus to a marketing agency to help develop a small list of possibilities from the survey suggestions. Van Iperen was directed to research possible marketing agencies the Board could consider hiring, per the BID Board members’ request, and then they’ll consider if it’s something they want to do at the next meeting.
The board will not have the ability to spend any funds until the City’s new fiscal year kicks in on Oct. 1, 2023, but could ask the City to cover the cost of utilizing a marketing agency and reimburse the government agency once the new City fiscal year begins Oct. 1, 2023. This would help get the ball rolling.
Board members indicated they would then possibly use the feedback from the agency and go back to the public to help select the overall district name.
“We’re definitely appreciative of all the suggestions,” Johnson said, during the meeting.
Back in June 2023, the Columbus City Council approved a BID assessment that was shared with the public based on a $200 per $100,000 valuation per county records, with a $750 cap per property per year. It would net $45,228.63 in year one, but the City of Columbus would also match that amount, to give the board a first-year budget of approximately $90,457.26.
Per public feedback, a reevaluation clause was also added into the ordinance noting that after a period of five years, the Downtown BID Board will meet to reassess the district's efficacy and create a report for the City Council to determine whether it should continue or disband.
The general vicinity of the BID goes from the alley south of 11th Street to the alley north of 14th Street between 23rd Avenue and 33rd Avenue and the Evans House, 2204 14th St, as previously announced.
Present for the July 10th meeting were Board President Josh Johnson; Board Vice President Kevin Johnson, of Wize Buys; Barbara Duffy, of Barbara Jean’s, who is the board secretary; as well as board members Cory Reeder, of Reeder’s 11th Street Grub and Pub, Robert “Bob” Stachura, of Columbus Tire and Service Center; Kristin Stock, of Artzy Haven; and Dick Tooley, of Tooley’s Drug & Home Care.
City Administrator Tara Vasicek, City Planning and Economic Development Coordinator Jean Van Iperen, City Public Communications Manager Matt Lindberg and Columbus Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Director Theresa Grape were also in attendance.
Absent were board members Lindsay Thomson, of Inspired by Soul Photography, Mary Nyffeler, of Treasures Boutique.
The BID Board has scheduled its next meeting for noon on Monday, Aug. 7, 2023, in the large conference room at City Hall on the third level of the Columbus Community Building. The public is invited.
Look for more coverage about other topics discussed at the BID meeting in the coming week.