For many years, the City of Ontario has desired to work with Downtown Ontario property owners to unlock its economic potential. In July 2018, the City contracted with New City America to work with property owners to investigate and assist with the formation of a new Downtown Ontario Community Benefit District (CBD). Efforts of this type, by and among property owners, have been utilized by a number of cities as a vehicle for revitalization of historic downtown areas across the country. The district would expect to raise nearly a half million dollars a year to spend on the downtown.
Through an initial survey process, feedback was sought from the Downtown Ontario property owners to gauge their level of support for a proposed district. Paid for by property owners of the downtown only, the CBD would fund improvements and services over and above those currently provided by the City of Ontario. The city cannot reduce its services. It is a program where the property owners make an investment in the downtown and their individual properties by placing an assessment upon themselves.
The results came in this past August 2019. Property owners voted in favor of the Downtown Community Benefit District. This did not include votes on behalf of city owned property. The special benefit assessments paid by property owners fund improvements to the public rights of way directly surrounding those properties. These funds cannot be used for purposes not related to the downtown district.
The Downtown Community Benefit District is a parcel tax on 204 properties that will raise $461,405 a year through 2024. The city and New City see the money being used for steam-cleaning sidewalks, graffiti removal, planting flowers, attracting business and private security to respond to homeless issues.
The revitalization of the downtown hinges on property owners investing in the downtown. With the city having previously invested in the Ontario Town Square, purchasing property for mixed use housing, evening entertainment, programming and investors partnering with the city to build restaurants, residents can expect downtown Ontario become a destination location. Recently the city announced that the Bank of Italy was purchased and the new owners are investing 6 million dollars.
Property owners making up the Downtown Community Benefit District Steering Committee will determine how they spend the funds to better improve the district.