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New Cherokee Street district expected to improve services

BENTON PARK WEST – With $30,000 to $40,000 a year, a business taxing district for Cherokee Street west of Jefferson Avenue could afford only to repaint an iconic statue of an American Indian and pay a part-time administrator and worker to pick up trash. 

But with a new taxing district, they’re bringing in $225,000 a year, paying for a full-time administrator and funding services from beautification to safety.

No wonder business and community leaders on Cherokee Street west of Jefferson Avenue say the transition to a new Cherokee Street Community Improvement District is a major step up for their area.

Since 1982, a special taxing district called the Cherokee Station Special Business District handled community and business improvement in an area from a block east of Jefferson to Nebraska Avenue. 

Then in 2017, the Board of Aldermen established the Cherokee Street Community Improvement District from a block east of Jefferson to Gravois Avenue. 

Last week, to finish the transition, the Board of Aldermen gave initial approval to a bill to eliminate the old Cherokee Station Special Business District.

The Community Improvement District, complete with an administrator, will do more than the old special district did, said Ninth Ward Alderman Dan Guenther, who sponsored the bill on the special business district.

“It allows us to do things in a more professional and organized way,” Guenther said. “Prior, it was a group of volunteers trying to take a little bit of money and figure out what we were going to do with it. Now we actually have money for beautification, trash cans, pickups, safety measures.”

With the new arrangement, “it gives us more opportunity to do projects on the street,” Guenther said.

The district will deal with issues including public safety, beautification, youth outreach and marketing. 

The 2017 legislation establishing the Cherokee Street Community Improvement District established a 1 percent sales tax and authorized the district to levy a small property tax. That brought in about $225,000 in the year that ended June 30.

The Cherokee Station Special Business District collected a small property tax and a $200 business license tax, on top of the city graduated business license tax, said Jason Deem, a former president of that district’s board. It brought in $30,000 to $40,000 a year.

With that money, the special business district hired a part-time administrator and a part-time person to help clean up the street, Deem said.

“We helped put on events, but it was all shoestring budgets,” Deem said. 

“There’s a lot of things that the CID is working on,” Deem said. That includes street beautification and new banners. 

“It provides more resources for the improvement of Cherokee Street,” said Emily Thenhaus, executive director of the CID. She formerly worked in communications in the mayor’s office.

Deem said many special business districts were transitioning to community improvement districts.

“It’s kind of a natural next step,” Deem said. 

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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