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Neighborhood group trying to help underserved businesses with small tax

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SSMID social
A young girl works at JD Beauty Supply in Pepperwood Plaza Wednesday

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - Many residents on the south side of Iowa City feel they get left behind when contractors and developers want to build in town.

They get frustrated when businesses set up shop in one of their malls like Sycamore Mall or Pepperwood Plaza but then leave a few months later.

"It doesn't make you feel good as a resident. Like, we were worth it (the investment) and now we're not," Angie Jordan said, president of the South District neighborhood Association.

Jordan and a group of businesses in her neighborhood have been brainstorming ways to breathe life into their storefronts since September and now think they have a winner; a Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District or SSMID.

The SSMID is a voluntary tax levied on businesses and the money goes into a common pool where they can pay for improvements like new walkways, signage, employee retention and more.

"It's a chance to make a nonprofit thats bread and butter is serving those property owners," Jordan said.

Jordan is now holding info sessions for interested community partners and businesses to learn about the SSMID. She's also collecting signatures with the hope of submitting their plan to City Council soon.

The proposed tax is currently set at $5 annually for every $1,000 of assessed property value. So, a business worth $500,000 would pay $2,500 every year to the fund. The tax is set for a five year period to start.

Jordan says she's getting input about how much to tax and what to use the money for but just having the concrete idea is a huge step for her.

"We're able to have those conversations and that's kind of a huge deal in itself."

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Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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