Letter: Detroit BIZ celebrates five-year milestone

The Detroit News
The view of the Detroit skyline is absolutely stunning from this penthouse condo at the top of the Westin Book Cadillac hotel building.

As Detroit buzzes with new shops and restaurants and our iconic parks hum with the sounds of summer, we should not overlook one of the engines that keep downtown clean, beautifully landscaped and brightly illuminated.

This year, we are celebrating five years of the Business Improvement Zone (BIZ), a public body of downtown property and business owners who help fuel the growth and vibrancy of our downtown core for the enjoyment of residents and visitors alike. 

The effort to establish the Downtown Detroit BIZ was led by the Downtown Detroit Partnership, which recognized that a voluntary corporate-sponsored beautification program launched ahead of Super Bowl XL was running out of funding and needed replacement with a longer-term strategy.   

The solution? The Downtown Detroit BIZ was established to collect a special assessment from the hundreds of commercial properties downtown. This year alone, $4.45 million was collected from more than 550 properties to support safety efforts, improve lighting, beautify Downtown parks and public spaces, and enhance infrastructure and planning, and more.

The BIZ also contributes to Detroit’s workforce development efforts, employing a team of ambassadors who are easily recognized by their distinctive yellow jackets and welcoming presence.

The ambassadors, 97 percent of whom are Detroit residents, are responsible for maintaining many of downtown's treasured parks, such as Campus Martius Park, Capitol Park and Grand Circus Park, which is public space equivalent to the size of 15 football fields. BIZ Ambassadors also provide cleaning and hospitality services for the Detroit RiverWalk, Cullen Plaza, Mt. Elliot Park and Gabriel Richard Park. Many of the participants are returning citizens and this work serves as an initial point for reentry before moving on to other jobs and a rewarding professional journey.

Ambassadors have worked 550,000 hours in the last five years to remove graffiti and reduce refuse, greet visitors and residents and make visits downtown fun and welcoming.

In recognition of the BIZ’s five-year milestone, we are promoting public awareness about its success, funding and training and employment opportunities.

Let’s continue to capitalize on the BIZ’s momentum, both today and in the future, and celebrate its value to everyone who lives, works, plays and visits downtown Detroit. For more information and to access interactive data tools, visit downtowndetroit.org.

Cynthia J. Pasky, founder, president and CEO, Strategic Staffing Solutions

chair of the board and director of the executive committee, Downtown Detroit Partnership

Daniel J. Loepp, President and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

chair, executive committee and vice chair of the board, Downtown Detroit Partnership