The Public Improvement District is stepping up its support of marketing downtown Waco by funding a website that promotes businesses, events and attractions in the central city.
The downtown PID board approved a 2015-16 draft budget Monday with $36,000 to support Chisholm Crossing, which has been online three years. The budget also calls for $10,000 for billboards around town referring people to chisholmcrossing.com for information on downtown.
The PID board, which consists mostly of downtown property owners, oversees extra improvements, services and events through a surtax on downtown properties.
The Business Resource Center, which contracts with the city of Waco to boost downtown development, is also expected to chip in $12,000 toward the website in the next fiscal year beginning in September. The two groups have also agreed to contribute to the website in the current fiscal year.
Megan Henderson, executive director for both groups, said the website is already invaluable for information and promotion, but it was in danger of being discontinued.
The Waco-based Calley Group started the website in 2012 as an outgrowth of a marketing plan it did for the PID, and principals Susan and John Calley have paid its expenses, including the cost of a full-time “chief content officer.”
“It’s pretty clear that the Calley Group was no longer going to be able to make such a sizable donation to the community,” Henderson said.
She said the PID and Business Resource Center will depend on the site to distribute information about events and parking, but they won’t interfere with editorial content.
“Much of its strongest value comes from being independent,” Henderson said.
Henderson said the downtown boards are interested in using Chisholm Crossing as a tool to point people to attractions and public parking during busy times downtown.
“This is a great example of why the PID sees Chisholm Crossing as a public utility, not just as a marketing tool or a blog,” she said.
Susan Calley agreed that the funding secures the website’s future, and she said it made sense for the PID to help fund a website that markets downtown.
“It became apparent to us that someone vitally interested in downtown Waco needed to be footing the bill,” she said.
She said the site may someday sell ads for revenue, but it doesn’t have the staffing for that now. In addition, the Calleys have licensed the website platform, including a calendar tool, to the Waco Convention Center and hope for more licensing agreements with other cities.