District helps Louisville manage its downtown
In 1992, property owners in a 42-block area of Louisville’s central business district began paying an assessment to fund the Louisville Downtown Management District (LDMD). The organization’s mission was clearly defined as providing supplemental cleaning, safety and marketing services that would benefit property within the 42 blocks. The assessment was established under a state statute that allows the district to operate for five years.
This year, LDMD is expected to be renewed for another five years. Services provided by LDMD began simply with a Clean Team, Safety Team and an image campaign, but over the years, those services have evolved in step with the flurry of revitalization activities in the heart of the Derby City.
Through careful planning and application of business principles, LDMD has maximized the assessment budget and augmented it with funding from sponsors for high-profile programs, partnerships with city agencies and with donations of inkind services from area businesses.
The district’s Clean Team is five members strong. The group works in beats throughout the district cleaning sidewalks and alleys each day.
Recently, a series of new programs has helped increased the team’s number of cleaners to 16 people and one dinosaur.
The dinosaur, called Clean-a-saurus, is actually a sidewalk cleaner manufactured by Madvac, Quebec, Canada. It received a makeover as a result of an on-air contest sponsored by Louisville Tonight Live, a local news magazine show on ABC affiliate WHAS-TV.
With a cash sponsorship from British Petroleum and Kiel Bros. Oil, LDMD offered the winning artist of a design competition the chance to vacuum up $500 in prize money, execute the design and have $4,000 left to help offset the purchase of the machine.
The contest generated media coverage from other TV stations as well as newspapers. LDMD estimates the value of the promotion to be in excess of $16,500.
The green dinosaur with purple and yellow spots, nicknamed “Clean-a-saurus” by the staff, is often a show stopper when it sucks up bottles, cans, paper litter and cigarette butts.
LDMD is also adding entertainment in the form of singing sweepers called Sweepin’ Safari, which gives inner city youth with vocal talents the opportunity to use their skills in a summer job.
The young people work four hours per day, six days per week sweeping up litter and gathering at appointed times and locations to sing original songs about keeping the city clean in a program modeled after the Biz Patrol in Winnipeg, Canada.
The team is also assisted by three Weed Busters.
Attired like the Ghost Busters of the movies, the Weed Busters are the result of a partnership formed by LDMD and Operation Brightside, the city’s Keep America Beautiful program. The Weed Busters attack, kill and remove weeds throughout the district.
The Clean Team has become customer-service oriented as well, with its new safari uniforms and pith helmets, which make members highly visible on the street and targets of visitors’ questions.
Although they carry LDMD’s free visitor maps to hand out, LDMD has trained each member in the history of downtown and sent each on a familiarization tour to visit each museum and attraction in the district.
Clean Team members also hand out cards to business owners when they respond to special cleaning requests. They also file maintenance reports when a piece of public property is damaged or missing. LDMD then reports these problems to the proper agency or utility.
Winter is not down time for the Clean Team. When snow plows create snow banks at the crosswalks, the Clean Team is out with shovels clearing a path for pedestrians, a service that started this past winter, making the Clean Team heroes in the eyes of many.
Additionally, the LDMD’s 12-person Safety Team patrols the streets of the district from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, assisting in emergency situations, watching for suspicious activity and assisting visitors.
The Safety Team is supervised by an off-duty Louisville police officer, who maintains contact with the team and the police.
LDMD stays in touch with all of the downtown security departments via the Safety Fax Network. Computer technology enables LDMD to fax sketches, descriptions and crime reports on suspects to more than three dozen downtown security departments within minutes of receiving them from police.
In just three months, the network has aided in the apprehension of a rapist, two shoplifters and an armed robber.
LDMD’s marketing activities have ranged from a billboard and painted bus campaign promoting “Downtown, Where Louisville Comes Together,” to its newest approach of providing amenities to make downtown visitors, trips more enjoyable.
The colorful visitors’ map lists businesses and attractions of interest to local and out-of-town visitors. Also included in the map is information about the free Toonerville II Trolley.
Operated by the Transit Authority of River City (TARC), the trolley was in danger of being forced to charge a fare and reduce its frequency. But, LDMD and other agencies provided subsidies that kept the trolley free and frequent.
Parking was another big marketing problem. Although a validation program exists, the purchase requirements diminished the effectiveness of its marketing, so LDMD worked out an arrangement for unlimited free Saturday parking with nine downtown parking facilities. The program requires no stickers, no purchases and no time limits.
Every other Friday night, LDMD faxes a one-page news-letter to more than 1,200 district owners, businesses and residents with two-paragraph stories that are often just bullet points of quick information.
News stories have been generated the fax since it also goes to the local media.