Bakersfield's Downtown Business Association is changing its legal structure so it can better solicit grants and donations it would use to improve the city's core.
The DBA has been examining ways it can support and encourage redevelopment since the state's decision late last year to shut down the roughly 400 redevelopment agencies across California, including the Bakersfield Redevelopment Agency.
"We've always known that the DBA needs to play a more important part in downtown redevelopment," past DBA Chairman Bob Bell said at a news conference Monday to announce the change.
The new legal format will enable that to happen, he said.
The coalition of business interests with a stake in the success of downtown is creating a Downtown Bakersfield Holding Co. that will be an umbrella organization for a new non-profit Downtown Bakersfield Development Corp., as well as the existing DBA and other entities. The DBA will continue to operate as a 501(c)6, which entitles it to certain tax exemptions as a business league.
The new nonprofit organization would be able to apply for funding the DBA wasn't previously eligible for that could be used for all sorts of things, the DBA said.
Its wish list includes not only redevelopment but also marketing downtown, encouraging tourism, and addressing parking and security issues.
Bell said other cities have used the same legal structure with much success.
The city of Bakersfield is supportive.
"The city no longer has the money it had just a year or two ago to do some of these projects, so we're going to have to get a lot more creative, a lot more ingenious," said Community Development Director Douglas McIsaac.
Having a vibrant downtown is "vital" to the health and economic development of any community, he added.
"Any time corporations are looking at relocating, they want entertainment and culture and fine dining," he said. "They want the amenities."