Enhancing the Rivertown Community through a Business Improvement Zone

A Business Improvement Zone enhances the look and feel public spaces in a defined district fostering a stable and successful community.

A Business Improvement Zone (BIZ) creates a clean, safe, and vibrant community through services provided to property owners for the benefit of their properties and tenants and all of the neighborhood’s stakeholders. It is intended to preserve and enhance property values. BIZ core services include hospitality, safety, upkeep of parks, sidewalks, and other public spaces, and business outreach and engagement. 

At the opening of Rivard Plaza in 2008 (which is now Cullen Plaza), the Rivertown district faced 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 portion of the services needed.  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 sustained funding source that can be spent only on services that benefit the district as a whole.

Rivertown BIZ Brochure

Sign the Pledge



  • 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


Rivertown continues to benefit from JEI’s and DRFC's involvement, but the voluntary donations for services cannot keep pace with the growing needs in Rivertown. 

JEI: 14 Years Cleaning Rivertown (2010-2024)

  • 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: 16 Years Maintaining  the Riverfront (2008-2024)

  • 3.5 Miles of Riverwalk

  • 2 Miles Dequindre Cut

  • 2 Miles of the Mayor Dennis W. Archer Greenway

  • Cullen Plaza

  • Mt. Elliott Park, Gabriel Richard Park, Robert C. Valade Park and green spaces

As new housing, retail, and office development continue in Rivertown, an increase in the demand for services from property owners, businesses, and residents 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 maintain public spaces, enhancing 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 are experiencing an increased demand for services — and an increased opportunity to involve new commercial property owners in supporting 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 commercial property owners to actively contribute to sustain and improve their neighborhood.  A Business Improvement Zone (BIZ) provides a higher standard and quality of care for the public realm based on the priorities that property owners set for the district. These supplemental services are over and above city services and are determined by the property owners. All spending is dictated by the BIZ Plan approved by vote of property owners and administered by the volunteers they elect to serve on the BIZ board of directors.  The establishment of a BIZ equips property owners with direct input on how their neighborhood is maintained and the power of collective purchasing and coordinated service delivery.

Commercial property owners within the BIZ also benefit from the power of a unified voice advocating 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 commercial property assessments that ensure continuity of services. All spending must align with the BIZ Plan that is approved by vote of assessed commercial property owners and administered by the volunteer board of directors. All decisions of the BIZ board are made at public meetings held in compliance with Michigan’s Open Meetings Act. The BIZ is also independently audited annually.


Property owners within the BIZ boundary determine service priorities and how funds are spent. Funding can be allocated only as approved by owners of assessed commercial property when they vote to approve the BIZ Zone:

  • Only withing the geography of the BIZ Zone
  • Only on projects approved by assessed commercial property owners
  • Only on services that go above and beyond what the city is required to provide
  • For the collective benefit of assessed properties within the BIZ Zone
  • With the oversight of a volunteer Board of Directors acting at public meetings in alignment with Michigan’s BIZ Act

Equitable and fair participation will be accomplished since commercial properties will be assessed utilizing a formula that factors in the size and value of each parcel, correlating to the value received.  The BIZ will improve the look and feel of the entire community by providing services throughout the district.


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, and internationally.

Locally, the Downtown Detroit BIZ and Southwest Detroit BID have significantly contributed to new growth and investment. Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and Ann Arbor’s Main Street also have business improvement districts that support their commercial properties.  A BIZ is a proven and fair solution that ensures the continuity and quality 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. 


  • 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. The Downtown Detroit BIZ was established in 2014 and was recently renewed for a second 10-year term by unanimous vote of assessed property owners. The Downtown Detroit BIZ has earned 100% clean independent annual audits since inception.
  • BIZ law requires transparency and accountability
  • BIZ law prohibits spending on services the city is required to provide
  • A BIZ board gives a unified voice to the city government regarding services and requests for the community


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 313 commercial parcels (nonprofit and government buildings as well as single family residences are exempt). 


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 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 sidewall  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 and residents 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.


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

  • Brian Carnaghi, Presbyterian Village (1 year)

  • Keith Cooley, Rivertown Resident (1 year)

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

  • Aamir Farooqi, Banyan Investments (1 year)

  • Franz Herbert, Princeton Management (3 year)

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

  • Mark Reith, Atwater Brewery (2 years)

  • Chip Rohde, Rivertown Business 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)

  • TBD, Commercial Property Owner (1 year) 



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, Mayor Dennis W. Archer Greenway 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.  They represent approximately 42,200 residents.  

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



Download this PDF and email completed form to info@detroitriverfront.org


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. 

Commercial 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 will be voted on by the BIZ Board of Directors but they are services and improvements in addition to current city services.

  3. Who pays the BIZ assessment?

    The BIZ assessment is primarily paid by the commercial 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 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), 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.

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

    Email info@detroitriverfront.org or call 313.566.8200.

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

    Contact info@detroitriverfront.org 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 2024.

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.