Powell and Geary streets in the heart of Union Square are cleaner and safer than they were a decade ago, but walk just blocks west to the theater district and you will find a much different scene: litter, graffiti and crime.
“There are robberies every day around here, there is crime in the street and every day kids get lost from their parents,” said James Flood, president of the Greater Union Square Business Improvement District and owner of the Flood Building. “I want to make it a safe place for little old ladies and kids to walk around and not get mugged.”
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors signed off on a $3.4 million contract allowing the business improvement district to tap into its property-assessment funds and pay to begin cleaning up another 27 blocks of The City’s most prominent shopping district. That includes scraping gum and grime off the sidewalks, painting, landscaping and putting more police in the larger area bound roughly by Sutter and Market streets between Kearny, Mason and Taylor streets.
The business improvement district already started spending money to clean up Campton Alley, which has been notorious for crime and trash. Officials met Thursday with architects to talk about other ideas for making the alleyways in Union Square safer and more accessible to pedestrians, including more lighting and sidewalks, said Linda Mjellem, executive director of the business improvement district.
Conversations are taking place about possibly prohibiting cars on certain streets, making it a pedestrian shopping mecca, Mjellem said.
Shops have taken a big hit from the recession, and that’s why
Mjellem said the business improvement district plans to use some of the money to ramp up marketing efforts in Union Square and lure more shoppers and new businesses. That includes creating special events and branding campaigns.
“Today, at lunchtime, you’d expect to see a lot of [shoppers], and there weren’t,” Mjellem said. “And those who were there weren’t carrying shopping bags.”
The business improvement district was formed 10 years ago, collecting $1 million from property owners within 10 blocks of Union Square.
But that didn’t cover half the shopping area. So last year, the Board of Supervisors approved the expansion of the district.
“It has made a difference in the neighborhood in keeping it clean and safe,” said Anson Lee, who manages parking garages in Union Square. “It makes the entire community more welcoming for visitors.”
$3.4 million will be spent on:
•Steam cleaning sidewalks
•Dedicated police officer
Source: Greater Union Square Business Improvement District