Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Speaking of the need for a comprehensive cultural plan for the City of Washington

The Washington Business Journal reports, in "D.C.'s Blues Alley subject of tax break bill," that the owners of Blues Alley, a for profit venture in Georgetown that for almost five decades has been a presentation venue for rhythm and blues music, are seeking a property tax exemption.

From the article:

D.C. Councilman Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, introduced a bill in January to provide “historic music cultural institutions” with a 10-year property tax abatement, along with deed recordation and transfer tax abatements, for newly leased or purchased property in the District.

The legislation would apply only to corporations that have operated a commercial venue for a minimum of 45 years and hosted a minimum of 100 live musical performances in each of the last five years.  Blues Alley, founded in 1965, is just about the only venue to meet those qualifications. ...

I think the issue is broader than one specific business.   (Blues Alley, Wikimedia image.)

It is reasonable to consider taxation issues for for profit arts-related businesses vs. non-profit businesses. It is perhaps unfair that nonprofit organizations, which don't pay property taxes, compete with for profit businesses. 

Similarly, nonprofit arts organizations--wrongly in my opinion--argue that patrons of their events shouldn't have to pay an admissions tax, although admissions taxes are a form of revenue that end up supporting nonprofit arts organizations.  That's another difference in treatment that should be addressed.

But should Blues Alley get a tax exemption, and not 9:30 Club?  Both are for profits.  One has been  in business longer, but each has had significant positive impact, and arguably 9:30 Club has had more impact.

Sure, 9:30 Club, which opened in 1980, has been in business for a shorter period than Blues Alley, but it has been a growing business in that time, and presented thousands of concerts, and arguably, when they moved to and reopened in 1996 a larger facility one block from 9th and U Street NW, they were an early(-ier) entrant and anchor for the now much more revitalized U Street corridor.

These issues of funding, taxation, for profit vs. nonprofit, etc., should be addressed in a wide-ranging cultural plan.

One-off legislative initiatives ought to be avoided in the dearth of a more generalized policy.

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