Enhancing the Rivertown Community through a Business Improvement Zone

A Business Improvement Zone enhances the look and feel of a public space in a defined district fostering a vibrant and successful community.

A Business Improvement Zone (BIZ) creates a clean, safe, and vibrant community through services provided to property owners, businesses, residents and employees. BIZ services include hospitality, safety, parks maintenance, business outreach and engagement that benefits patrons, visitors and stakeholders. 

At the opening of Rivard Plaza in 2008 (which is now Cullen Plaza), the Rivertown district was facing many challenges around blight and safety.  In response to challenges heard from businesses, property owners and residents in Rivertown, The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy (DRFC), Jefferson East, Inc. (JEI) and the Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) came together to provide services – supported by a voluntary donation process.

The challenge remains that DRFC and JEI’s voluntarily donated funds only cover a limited service area.  Most of the Rivertown district receives no additional services to support cleaning, landscaping, or security. The establishment of a Rivertown Business Improvement Zone (Rivertown BIZ) would provide a public organization dedicated to enhancing the attractiveness and overall appeal of the Rivertown community and will provide a sustainable funding source to provide services to improve the public space. 

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  • Before JEI and DRFC provided services

  • Over 50% of the buildings were abandoned

  • There was an excessive accumulation of litter and trash

  • Overgrown bushes and weeds lined the sidewalks

  • The area experienced significant crime incidents (over 803 incidents in 2013), including prevalent smash and grabs (vehicle larcenies) 


Rivertown contues to benefit from JEI and DRFC's involvment in their response to the needs of the community using volutary donations for services only in targeted areas. 

JEI: 11 Years Cleaning Rivertown (2010-2021)

  • Trash can emptying 3x/week

  • Litter removal on sidewalk 2x/week

  • Graffiti and illegal sign removal

  • Blight enforcement

  • Hospitality Ambassadors helping motorists and pedestrians along East Jefferson

DRFC: 13 Years Maintaining  the Riverfront (2008-2021)

  • 3 Miles of RiverWalk

  • 2 Miles Dequindre Cut

  • Cullen Plaza

  • Mt. Elliott Park, Gabriel Richard Park, and green spaces

As new housing, retail, and office development continue in Rivertown, an increase in the demand for services from residents, businesses, and property owners will continue to grow.


JEI and DRFC raise private donations annually to pay for services. The type of services and limited area where these services are provided is dependent on how much each nonprofit can raise. Each is dependent on a handful of private donors, resulting in an unsustainable funding source to keep up with the level of services property and business owners and residents are requesting. The Business Improvement Zone (BIZ) will provide sustainable funding and will be a source to provide improved public spaces throughout the Rivertown community. 


As investment in Rivertown continues to grow, with the projected increase in visitors, residents, businesses, and developments in the Rivertown district, we will see an increased demand for services — and an increased opportunity to involve new commercial property owners in providing those services. These services will help increase the value of properties as well as provide a clean and safe environment. 

What is a BIZ?

A BIZ is an opportunity for businesses to actively contribute to the improvement of their community.  A Business Improvement Zone (BIZ) provides a higher standard and quality of care for public spaces based on the priorities that property owners set for the district. These supplemental services are over and above city services, determined by the priorities of the property owners and set by the BIZ board within the zone.  The establishment of a BIZ equips property owners with direct input on how their neighborhood is maintained.

Property owners within a BIZ will also have a unified voice to create and advocate for a world-class riverfront community together.  New developments will automatically be included in the Rivertown Business Improvement Zone (RBIZ), allowing services to expand with growing demand.


Consistent funding is created through property assessments that ensure continuity of services. Additional investment in the area provided by commercial and residential property owners will increase the available funds for services within the community. 


Property owners within the BIZ boundary determine service priorities and how funds are spent. No funds will be allocated outside of the defined boundaries of the community. 

Equitable and fair participation will be accomplished since all properties will be assessed equally, instead of a handful of private donors contributing as in the current situation, which means only certain areas are addressed versus the entire district.  The BIZ will improve the look and feel of the entire community by providing services throughout the district vs small pockets.


BIZs (sometimes called a Business Improvement District, or a BID) are widely acknowledged as a critical legislative tool supporting revitalization in more than 1,500 cities across the country, including New York, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Denver.  

Locally, the Downtown Detroit BIZ and Southwest Detroit BID have significantly contributed to new growth and investment. Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. also has a Downtown Improvement District that is contributing to the revitalization of its downtown.  A BIZ is a proven and fair solution that ensures the continuity and maintenance of services in public spaces that positively impact the designated neighborhood. 


State law dictates how a BIZ works. Learn more here

A BIZ is a proven and fair solution that ensures the continuity and maintenance of services in public spaces that positively impact the designated neighborhood. 

Benefits Achieved in a BIZ

  • Increases real estate value over time and attracts new investment

  • Improves the environment for property owners, businesses, visitors, and residents

  • Creates a sustainable funding model for providing and maintaining services

  • Property owners within the BIZ determine priorities, decide how funds are spent, and oversee allocation 100%

  • Successful model proven in Downtown Detroit

  • A BIZ board gives a unified voice to the city government regarding services and requests for the community

District Service Area

This map would be the area that would receive the enhanced services, all funds raised through the assessment would be spent within these boundaries. The proposed Rivertown BIZ has 322 commercial parcels and 648 condo units eligible for accessible properties (nonprofit and government buildings as well as single family residences are exempt). Any parcel that has HOPE status will also be exempt (if you feel you have hardship that qualifies for an exemption please contact JEI here.

Commercial and Industrial Property Assessment

The Rivertown BIZ will mirror the successful assessment formula the Downtown Detroit BIZ uses for commercial and industrial properties. Apartments are categorized as commercial properties, therefore apartment building owners are included in the property assessment.

The Downtown BIZ assessment formula uses assessable value and floor area figures, which equates to approximately $.10 per square foot with a $150,000 cap for commercial properties. 

Proposed Services 

Proposed services are based on projected assessed revenue and defined by the BIZ board of directors. The board’s composition will be made of property owners, residents, and city officials. Once the total amount of revenue is defined the type and frequency of services will be established by the board.

Examples of services could include: 

24 Hour private security patrols      Clean services/maintenance/grub removal     Trash can emptying 
Sidewalk litter removal on sidewal  Graffiti and illegal sign removal                         Blight enforcement
Hospitality ambassadors                    District marketing                                                 Commercial business inspections 

The actual services are ultimately voted on by the Rivertown BIZ board.

Board composition

Property owners looking for ways to enhance their community are the drivers of forming a BIZ. Several businesses in the Those located in the district formed the Rivertown BIZ Advisory Committee. They explored the feasibility of forming a BIZ  that replicated the success  of Downtown Detroit’s BIZ which was established in 2014. DDP, the administrator of the Downtown BIZ has provided lessons learned from their experiences improving downtown. 

In support of the Rivertown BIZ Advisory Committee, the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, Jefferson East, Inc., and the Downtown Detroit Partnership teamed up to investigate the BIZ model and how it could be implemented in Rivertown to provide supplemental services (cleaning and safety) that address current needs expressed by residents and businesses. The goal is to position the district to accommodate anticipated future growth that will result in an increase in visitors to the area.  This partnership was inspired by the success and lessons learned from the downtown BIZ, administered by the Downtown Detroit Partnership.


  • Sabah Ammouri, Easton Investments (1 year)

  • Lenny Barnes, Heritage Optical (D BIZ bridge) (2 years)

  • Brian Carnaghi, Presbyterian Village (1 year)

  • Keith Cooley, Resident (1 year)

  • Josh Elling – Jefferson East, Inc. (3 years)

  • Aamir Farooqi, Banyan Investments (1 year)

  • Franz Herbert, Princeton Management (3 years)

  • Deb Hoge, General Motors (D BIZ bridge) (2 years)

  • Mark Reith, Atwater Brewery (2 years)

  • Chip Rohde, Rivertown Detroit Association (1 year)

  • Nadia Sesay, Bedrock (3 years)

  • John Stroh, Rattlesnake Club (2 years)

  • Mark Wallace – Detroit Riverfront Conservancy (3 years)

  • Jacqueline Young, Resident (2 years)

  • TBD  – City Representative (3 years)



Downtown Detroit Partnership

The Downtown Detroit Partnership is the current administrator of Downtown BIZ for the last 8 years. They have taken lessons learned to bring their expertise to the table.

DDP strengthens and supports Downtown Detroit through strategic initiatives and programs. We convene business, philanthropic and government partners to create a vibrant and resilient urban core for Detroit and the region. The DDP provides thought leadership on a broad range of timely issues affecting our community and advocates on behalf of Detroit residents and small and local businesses and convenes corporate philanthropic and government partners

Detroit Riverfront Conservancy 

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is a non-profit organization founded in 2003 with the mission to develop public access to Detroit’s riverfront and serve as an anchor for economic development.  As the permanent stewards of the RiverWalk and the Dequindre Cut, the Conservancy is responsible for raising the funds needed for construction, operation, maintenance, security, and programming of the public spaces located along the riverfront.  The 

Conservancy’s ultimate vision is to develop five-and-a-half miles of riverfront from the Ambassador Bridge on the west to Gabriel Richard Park, just east of the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle.


JEI represents 5 distinct neighborhoods along the East Jefferson corridor and provides programming within a boundary area of 18.4 square miles.  We represent approximately 42,200 residents.  

Growing Detroit’s East Jefferson corridor and its neighborhoods through facilitative leadership, collaborative partnership, innovative and impactful programming.



Click here to register. 



Download this PDF and email completed form to [email protected]


Let’s Keep Rivertown’s Positive Momentum Going! Take the pledge to enhance a clean, safe, and vibrant Rivertown community through services provided to property owners, businesses, residents and employees. Your pledge will boost the overall appeal of Rivertown. BIZ services include hospitality, cleaning, safety, parks maintenance, urban planning and business outreach and engagement that benefits Rivertown patrons, visitors and stakeholders. 

Property owners can signal their support by signing a pledge. The Rivertown Advisory Committee will present your pledge during the Detroit City Council public hearing scheduled for late spring. Ballots will be mailed to all property owners by the city clerk’s office. 



  1. What is a BIZ?

    A BIZ, or Business Improvement Zone, is a defined geographic area which enables local commercial property owners to finance supplemental services and improvements beyond those provided by the City. 

  2. What services and improvements can a BIZ provide?

    Proposed services included: 24 hour private security patrols, neighborhood beautification, sidewalk litter removal, graffiti and illegal sign removal, blight enforcement, community and visitor engagement initiatives, hospitality ambassadors, district marketing and commercial business safety and inspections

    These proposed services and improvements are in addition to current city services.

  3. Who pays the BIZ assessment?

    The BIZ assessment is primarily paid by the commercial and residential property owners in the defined Rivertown BIZ area.

  4. Does every resident pay the assessment?

    The assessment will be charged to the owner of each building or condo unit (i.e., each tax lot), not each resident. If you own your own condo unit or townhouse, you will be assessed. If you rent an apartment you will not be assessed.  Your building owner will be assessed annually.

  5. Who controls the BIZ?

    Once approved, the BIZ is led by an elected, volunteer Board of Directors representing all stakeholders within its boundaries:  property owners (commercial and residential), business owners and residential tenants. Additionally, there is an appointed city representative on the Board. The Board will determine the services to be provided by the BIZ.

  6. Will any funds be used outside of the Rivertown community?

    No, the  funds will only be used to benefit the services and projects within the defined geographic area of the Rivertown BIZ.

  7. How can I show my support for the Rivertown BIZ?

    You can show your support by signing the Rivertown BIZ pledge

  8. What have been the successes of the downtown BIZ ?

    The Downtown Detroit BIZ has a similar profile to that of the proposed Rivertown BIZ in terms of business mix and services provided. Their 2021 annual report can be found here.

  9. How do I get a copy of the brochure that was mailed in my neighborhood?

    Download the Commercial Property brochure and the Residential Property brochure.

  10. How can I get marketing materials for my business? 

    Email [email protected] or call 313.566.8200.

  11. Who do I contact if I have questions, comments, or concerns?

    Contact [email protected] or call 313.566.8200.

  12. If I have a property exemption today, will I be assessed? 

    If you are granted the exemption you will be exempt from the BIZ.

Business Improvement Zone (BIZ) 

The Rivertown Business Zone (RBIZ) will be a public organization dedicated to enhancing the attractiveness and overall appeal of the Rivertown community. It is a special assessment district that was authorized by a vote of property owners in 2022.

The Rivertown BIZ will be led by a volunteer Board of Directors who represent the community of dedicated property owners. The Rivertown BIZ Board will contract with the Downtown Detroit Partnership to manage its day-to-day operations.

The Rivertown BIZ will be guided by rules set out in a BIZ Zone Plan and governed by a Board of Directors as defined in legislative ACT. Property owners will approve the Rivertown BIZ Plan, which establishes a formula for BIZ assessment calculations, rules for governing the election of Board members, and the scope of projects the BIZ will undertake. The BIZ charges the BIZ Board of Directors, a volunteer group of Downtown leaders, with the responsibility of creating a budget that aligns with the BIZ service delivery goals and needs. The BIZ plan is valid for ten years.

The BIZ Board of Directors is a public body that complies with Michigan’s BIZ law, 1961 PA 120, MCL 125.990 to 125.990n, as amended, and follows the City of Detroit’s process for BIZ assessment collection. We share the essentials about the BIZ budget, BIZ Plan, and City process for you here.