Government, Village Life, Work

The BID Gets a New Executive Director

On Friday April 26, Mark Burns, 44, was sworn in as the new executive director of the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District (BID). The Spotlight met with him one week later to get his views on where the BID has been, where it’s going, and what his priorities will be as executive director.

The interview appears below. But first, some background:

The Coconut Grove BID was established on April 1, 2009, as a semi-autonomous agency under the charter of the City of Miami. The chair of the BID is, by definition, the current commissioner for District 2 – now Damian Pardo. The board of directors is comprised of nine business leaders and property owners in the BID’s Center Grove commercial area. The BID is accountable both to its board and to the Miami City Commission, which approves the BID’s annual budget (most recently, nearly $4.6 million). Revenues come from a variety of sources, notably participating businesses, parking fees, user fees, and special events.

The BID’s basic mission is to promote a healthy business climate in its Center Grove district. That includes capital projects, marketing, patrols by “ambassadors” who maintain cleanliness and safety, special events, and providing information about the district’s shops, restaurants, resources, and events. One of the BID’s most important recent projects was the repaving of the sidewalks on Grand Ave., Main Highway, and McFarlane Rd.

Spotlight: What in your background makes you a good person to lead the BID?

Burns: I think my background uniquely prepared me for this job. The first ten years of my career were in property management. I have a history of dealing with business owners. Trying to enable them to succeed was always a big mission for me. A big part of this job, I feel, is getting out and getting in touch with the business owners. Then you have the maintenance aspects. When you’re in property management you’ve got contacts with vendors and marketing all the way down to maintenance – keeping things clean, keeping things repaired, all of that.

Spotlight: Where have you been working recently?

Burns: After working for private companies, in 2013 one of my old bosses from Terranova Corporation became the director of real estate at the City of Miami. He reached out to me and told me about a position as lease manager with the city. I established a lot of connections over time with all the different departments. I handled all the city-owned leased properties, about 100 of them. The properties with the most income were all in District 2 – in the Grove and Downtown. That gave me a familiarity with the Grove. As a property manager you do events, manage websites, marketing, bringing people to shopping centers. All that gave me a good skill set for what we need here.

Spotlight: What are your immediate goals for the BID?

Burns: My immediate goals right now are to get out and meet the members of the BID, meet the property and business owners, and see what their most pressing problems and issues are. It’s to listen to people and see what is needed. Then I’ll come up with a plan that will make the most progress for the BID. That will take at most three months.

Spotlight: What have been the BID’s successes in recent years?

Burns: The marketing of businesses in the BID through the social media and the Grovite (the BID’s weekly digital newsletter) has been a big success. Also, the sidewalk pavers, though there still seem to be some issues with them.

Spotlight: What are some challenges the BID faces?

Burns: A big challenge when you’re dealing with a large group of people is trying to make as many people happy as you can. Everybody’s going to have different opinions on what their business needs. I’ll try to come up with solutions that will take care of the majority of people and bring people to the Grove.

Spotlight: One challenge, most people would agree, is the intersection of McFarlane Rd., Main Highway, and Grand Ave. What do you think can be done to make that intersection work better for all users, especially pedestrians?

Burns: I would want to confer with my contacts within the City of Miami to see what their thoughts and staff interpretations of the most likely solutions are. It will require an engineering firm to do a study to see what the best solutions would be. If something like that hasn’t been done already, maybe we’re the ones to spearhead it.

Spotlight: Five years from now, what changes would you like to see in the Grove’s central commercial area? What’s your dream?

Burns: The Grove is really doing well now. It’s a beautiful area, and I love it. It’s a challenge to want to bring more people here but keep the neighborhood feel to it as well. My goal is to support the businesses and to make sure the businesses are doing well and thriving. That’s what I want to see.

Spotlight: People have talked for many years about expanding the BID west of 32nd Ave. What are your thoughts about that?

Burns: I have to do my own research and see how it would impact us, both positively and negatively, before giving an opinion on it. I’m sure I’ll hear more about it in the future.

Spotlight: What steps have you taken to establish a good relationship with Commissioner Pardo, the chairman of the BID?

Burns: He was on the selection committee, so I interviewed with him. He came to one of our meetings, and I met him here. I’ve spoken with his chief of staff a few times. It’s a growing relationship. I think he has a lot of great ideas, and he’s very passionate about the Grove.

Spotlight: The BID meetings are open to the public, but for a lot of us who are concerned about Coconut Grove, the BID has been somewhat opaque. When and where will the next meeting be held?

Burns: I’d like to change that perception of the BID. I want to be transparent. The date of the next meeting is May 21 at the Mayfair House Hotel and Spa on the second floor at 10 a.m., and the meeting is open to the public.

Spotlight: Is there anything else you want people to know about how you’re going to deal with being the BID’s executive director and how you see your job?

Burns: I’m excited to be here and serve the public and the businesses within the BID. I want to see great things happen here.

More Information

2018 BID Report by Grove 2030

  • Overview: A community-generated report discussing the current status and future goals for the BID.
  • Access the report: Link to PDF file

Plusurbia Visionary Plan for the Center Grove Commercial Area

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