One of my community commitments is serving as President of the Lakeshore Avenue Business District Board of Directors. The BID is a legal entity formed by the commercial property owners of Lakeshore and Lake Park Avenues. The property owners tax themselves in order to provide necessary services such as cleaning, security, advertising and beautification. LABC owns two parcels in the district and we pay an annual allocation of $500 per year per parcel, a negotiated rate for non-profit property owners.
I have served on the Board for a number of years and became President in the midst of emergency three years ago. The past year has presented many challenges but in the face of those challenges the BID, particularly because of the work of Kira Pascoe (communications) and Carol Knight (service contracts), has done some good work. Our annual report to the city noted the following accomplishments.
- Sidewalks and gutters swept regularly—Major clean-up of areas of vegetation. This work provided the impetus for several volunteer efforts by neighborhood residents to be involved in maintenance and beautification.
- The BID maintains a security officer on Lakeshore and Lake Park Avenues seven days a week, eight hours a day. This was needed since most businesses were closed during COVID-19 and needed monitoring.
- Sent a letter early during the COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place lockdown to all commercial property owners urging them to work with tenants who were likely to be struggling financially in regard to their lease payments.
- We made significant improvements to our website, our Facebook page and greatly increased our social media footprint. We did a monthly blog with news and promotions for our businesses.
- We hosted a virtual “ Lakeshore Love “ Campaign which gave our customers a chance to shop safely online and promote our local businesses during the year. We ran this via our website, Facebook, Instagram and blog for quite a few months.
- Our Board of Directors met monthly to via Zoom to address staffing needs management practices, relationships with merchants and neighbors, fiscal matters, and to monitor the contracts with our service providers. We found, during Covid, that the garbage in the area increased quite a bit ,so we had to have our staff handle this overflow of garbage in the city containers.
- Our directors worked on the Lakeshore and Lake Park Avenues during Covid to ensure everyone walking on the Avenue had masks and gloves, which the Lakeshore BID provided in order to keep the area safe.
- We established a rapport with some local homeless who have been living on Lakeshore for a few years and we were able to reach out and provide them some assistance.
Improvements and activities to be provided in 2020—We hope to improve relationships with the merchants and provide them promotional help via social media and our website that will help publicize them once they open again. We want to work with merchants to purchase additional “Big Belly” garbage cans. We plan to continue our aesthetic upgrades to our tree well and garden on the Avenue. We will keep our security on the Avenue and help with our homeless residents as much as possible.
It is fair to wonder why I would spend time on such matters. A short answer is that there is a connection between a flourishing Lakeshore Business District and a flourishing Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church.
A more theological response is that healthy, prosperous communities are a biblical concern. This is not to say that I endorse the prosperity gospel, the notion God rewards the truly faithful with wealth. It is to say that working economies, flourishing trade, financial security, the absence of debt, busy streets, the ability to earn a living and the gift of meaningful work are part of the biblical vision for humanity. When Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God it has an “in this world” economic dimension. The words prosper and prosperity appear 399 times in the Bible and the vast preponderance of those references refer not to the life to come but to this life.
I often say that as President of the Lakeshore Avenue BID I am a square peg in a round hole. It’s not like I have an MBA or a business degree. What I do have is a vision of a Lakeshore Avenue where all are welcome and all can flourish and a congregation that gives me some time to pursue that vision. I thank you.