Block By Block Block By Block en-us Block By Block How to become the friendly district How to become the friendly district

Gain a reputation for being friendly

The more comfortable and welcome people feel in your district, the more likely they are to not only return again, but to tell others about their great experience.

Become known as a friendly district by following these best practices.

1. Hire for personality

Ambassadors are the single most important factor in making your improvement district more hospitable.

People with outgoing and caring personalities need only to be equipped with knowledge of the district to become excellent ambassadors.

2. Train to serve many "publics"

Consider the different "publics" your ambassadors will encounter and train them to identify and understand the needs and approach for serving each group.

Ambassadors will interact with visitors, residents, district workers, homeless persons, and businesses, each requiring something unique.

3. It begins and ends with parking

Because an unfriendly or disinterested parking attendant can ruin a great experience downtown, it is important that parking facility operating companies are committed to achieving the same customer service standards.

Provide initial and ongoing training to parking lot attendants to ensure they are able to adequately assist people.

Free hospitality guide

These strategies and more are discussed in detail in our free hospitality guide.

Improve your hospitality experience, make your stakeholders happy, and bring more visitors to your district with the new reputation you can build by implementing our strategies for hospitality. Download the hospitality guide to get started today.

July 29th, 2014
5 Safety Strategies from 5 of the Safest Cities in the World 5 Safety Strategies from 5 of the Safest Cities in the World

Last month, we pulled cleaning strategies from 5 of the cleanest cities in the world. This time, let’s look at 5 of the safest cities in the world to figure out what they’re doing right.

Travel the globe with us once again to uncover 5 strategies for safety taken from 5 of the safest cities in the world.

1. Be available and visible like Vancouver, Canada.

Both Vancouver’s local police force and the federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police work hard to be available and active throughout Vancouver. Citizens and tourists know they can easily find and rely on authorities who are dedicated to service, crime prevention and law enforcement.

Encourage the authorities in your district to be available and visible. Just having a law enforcement presence can have a big effect on criminal activity.

Block by Block Ambassadors are an active part of their districts everyday. Our programs help leverage the limited time of law enforcement officers in your district by directing them to specific situations and alerting them to trends. Your safety program can also integrate the efforts of law enforcement and security professionals in your district.

2. Be hospitable like Munich, Germany.

Munich’s slogan is, “Munich loves you.” Along with being available, authorities should be friendly and engage the people in their districts. Munich’s welcoming mantra has given authorities a contagious and hospitable charisma. Munich has reduced crime and increased quality of living largely with changing attitudes.

Efforts to be sociable and pleasant among your law enforcement could create a similar effect.

Block by Block recognizes the power of hospitality. Our Ambassadors specifically seek to find meaningful ways to improve someone’s district experience and focus on continual engagements to deliver smiles and greetings to as many people as possible.

3. Prioritize cleanliness like Tokyo, Japan.

Tokyo can attribute much of its high levels of safety to its high cleanliness. In Tokyo, cleanliness is considered public etiquette. Its citizens generally hold each other accountable to keep the city both clean and safe.

At Block by Block, we have seen time and time again how cleanliness directly correlates to safety. Neglecting low level issues such as litter, graffiti, weeds and overflowing trash cans sends a message to visitors that an area may not be well cared for or safe.

This is why Ambassadors remove graffiti as soon as possible, maintain landscaping before it’s overgrown, and actively remove litter and trash.

4. Create safety standards like Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Dubrovnik regularly passes safety standards to ensure the safety of its citizens and visitors. For example, Dubrovnik motorways require enclosed service areas and gas stations, tunnels must be equipped with modern safety equipment, and traffic laws maintain a strict blood alcohol limit to reduce traffic accidents.

Even when government mandated safety standards like these are not the norm, creating a set of standards for your district can drastically reduce risk.

Consider pinpointing a couple safety challenges in your district. Reach out to Block by Block to assess those safety challenges and identify standards that could increase security and lower risk in those areas.

5. Create a culture of safety like Seoul, South Korea.

Seoul has several safety disadvantages, such as its dense population, large number of international residents, volcanic and tectonic activity, and less-than-friendly neighbor, North Korea. Despite these challenges, Seoul successfully created a culture of safety for its inhabitants and guests.

Like Seoul, establish safety as a norm of everyday living in your district. Start by identifying advocates of safety in your city and encourage them to connect and pursue safety awareness initiatives.

Block by Block Ambassadors can help you connect citizens, businesses and organizations and challenge them to focus on putting safety first and spreading their results. Increasing communication about safety can snowball into the culture of safety your district deserves.


Bonus Strategy: Look past your obstacles.

Each of these cities has experienced unsafe times of war, loss or turmoil. And each of these cities now ranks on several “Safest Cities” or “Best Cities to Live In” lists across the web.

These cities work hard despite difficult challenges in their pasts. Don’t hold on to your district’s specific trials and history. Look past those limitations and focus on creating a safer environment for your district.


Free Safety Guide

Download our free 360° Approach to Downtown Safety for Business Improvement Districts Guide to discover an overall strategy to improving safety and perceptions in your improvement district.

June 10th, 2014
5 Cleaning Strategies from 5 of the Cleanest Cities in the World 5 Cleaning Strategies from 5 of the Cleanest Cities in the World

What exactly are the cleanest cities in the world doing to keep their districts so clean?

Zoom out for a moment and discover 5 strategies for cleanliness taken from 5 of the cleanest cities in the world.

1. Think small like Singapore.

The city-state of Singapore maintains its cleanliness by considering the little things. Stickers in bathrooms remind citizens to always flush the toilet. Littering fines are high and well communicated. Chewing gum sales are forbidden to avoid gum stuck to public subway stations or benches.

While you probably won’t be outlawing chewing gum anytime soon, Singapore has established a high level of cleanliness with consistency in minor actions.

Every scrap of litter adds up. Small actions, like reminding the public to avoid dropping a straw wrapper on the sidewalk or tracking mud onto public transportation, can lead to big results.

2. Recycle well like Adelaide, Australia.

By emphasizing recycling, Adelaide drastically reduced their dependence on landfills, leading to a much cleaner living environment. The city encourages citizens to consider giving quality, unwanted items to charity and to urge each other to rely on the city’s recycling services.

Look into your city’s recycling options. Work with your city and neighboring cities to pursue more recycling initiatives and minimize waste.

3. Remove graffiti quickly like Minneapolis, Minnesota.

We are especially proud to see Minneapolis on so many “cleanest cities” lists, as Block by Block works hard everyday to keep the city clean. Minneapolis’ stance on vandalism and graffiti is to remove it within 24 hours. This reduces new graffiti and keeps areas looking welcoming.

Make it your goal to erase graffiti within 24 hours. Read more graffiti fighting techniques here or watch the video below to hear more from Minneapolis.

4. Aim for cleaner and more public transportation like Zurich, Switzerland.

Zurich citizens often choose to travel via public transportation. They have many options available including tram, bus, boat and train. Public transportation reduces carbon emissions by decreasing the number of individual cars in transit everyday. The city keeps their systems well kept and reliable.

You can encourage the use of public transportation by keeping your cities public transportation options as clean as possible. Create carpools to decrease carbon emissions.

5. Spread environmental awareness like Reykjavik, Iceland.

Reykjavik discovered that once it decided to implement green cleaning programs in its government, environmental efforts became a more attractive proposition in the local economy. Many businesses in Reykjavik now implement environmental policies to encourage employees to consider cleanliness in their everyday work and commutes.

Set a good example by establishing environmental awareness campaigns at in your district. A movement toward a cleaner city can only start with someone like you taking action and inviting others to join.


Along with these strategies, most cities that regularly rank on “cleanest cities in the world” lists have organizations working hard to prioritize efficient and effective cleanliness measures.

As a business improvement district, rally together and implement these 5 cleaning strategies to re-energize your city on cleanliness and how it can improve standard of living.

May 30th, 2014
Remove More Than Just Graffiti Remove More Than Just Graffiti

In the minds of your residents, tourists and stakeholders, fun and welcoming areas of your district can quickly become “shady” and “run-down,” almost overnight. How? All it takes is a few scribbles of graffiti to create negative perceptions that are much more difficult to erase than the graffiti itself.

Build your graffiti-fighting techniques

Chances are, you’ve felt the sting of graffiti before. Avoid getting “tagged” with negative perceptions and keep the sound reputation of your downtown intact by adding these graffiti-fighting best practices to your repertoire.

1. Act fast

Locate and remove graffiti as quickly as possible. Quick removal is important for a few reasons:

  • Allowing graffiti to linger in your district often rapidly breeds more.
  • If taggers regularly see their work removed immediately, they will likely move to another area.

Make it your goal to have all graffiti tags removed within 24 hours — before public perception even has a chance to be affected.

2. Get strategic with landscaping

Plant shrubs or thorny plants around the base of open walls, signs and other surfaces that could become graffiti targets. It makes access more difficult while still beautifying the area.

3. Start a graffiti hotline

Starting a graffiti hotline can expand your eyes and ears substantially. It allows you to enlist the help of business owners, residents and workers in your district to spot new graffiti. This can help you identify new tags immediately, which will also help you reach your 24-hour removal time.

There are plenty of ways to make this fun for your community, such as recruiting an anti-graffiti street team or awarding prizes for consistent graffiti spotting.

Learn more

Download our free Graffiti Tip Sheet for a better understanding of why, when, and where graffiti occurs as well as 5 more strategies to prevent and reduce graffiti in your city.

April 9th, 2014
The Vandalism Plan The Vandalism Plan

Say your garage was a jumbled heap of clutter. (Hypothetically speaking of course. Right?)

To really clean it well, you would have to get organized and make a plan to figure out exactly where everything needs to go and what leads it to such disarray in the first place.

Address the mayhem with structure

Vandalism is a safety and security issue that affects all communities. However, if attack vandalism with the same head-on approach you would cleaning your cluttered garage, you can make strides to keep vandalism at bay.

The key is to define the problem. Gather the hard facts and take a look at vandalism in your district from all angles.

Start with the data

Ask your team some questions to kick up the dust and really discover the full extent of vandalism in your district:

  • Find out how many vandalism incidents occur every month in your district.
  • Do you know what type of vandalism occurs most often?
  • Who are the recurring offenders in your district?

Take a thorough look at when and where vandalism frequently occurs. You will likely detect ongoing vandalism occurring in specific neighborhoods or streets.

Move from organization to action

Take your newfound data and develop some specific, tangible action items to combat the destruction of vandalism:

  • Start a neighborhood watch program in the areas you identified as frequent vandalism hot spots every month.
  • Check out the lighting in all the trouble spots in your district. Ensure there is adequate lighting, and place lights behind covers and out of reach.
  • Talk with business owners near previously vandalized property and encourage them to report incidents immediately to the police.

Make your Vandalism Plan

Develop your plan of action and communicate it to your team. Be specific, set goals, assign tasks and give deadlines. Approaching vandalism with an organized front is likely to make a big impact on preventing vandalism in your district.

Download our free Vandalism Tip Sheet to help you define your vandalism problem and discover more strategies to fight back.

March 27th, 2014
How to Perform a Downtown Safety Perceptions Assessment How to Perform a Downtown Safety Perceptions Assessment

If you’re considering starting a safety program for your downtown district, you know there are countless issues and constituents to consider.

One of the best places you can start is with a Downtown Safety Perceptions Assessment. This assessment allows you to take an objective look at your district, and see how it is perceived in terms of safety, where the most pressing issues are occurring, and how to allot resources. It will also help you determine the appropriate mix of security and hospitality in your district.

Use the following list to guide you in your perceptions assessment:

  • Conduct stakeholder surveys and review specific feedback. You can even consider ways to survey people who aren’t in your district.
  • Consult local law enforcement to understand specific, real crime trends.
  • Evaluate each area of your district to understand how it is used and to identify the typical “image detractors” associated with each.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t often come to your District.
  • Consider the environmental elements in each area of your district, especially during nighttime hours. 
  • Is lighting adequate? 
  • Is there visible graffiti?
  • Are panhandlers commonly present along the routes to parking or transit locations?
  • Is each block face “active” and vibrant?
  • Consider anecdotal feedback you’ve received about impressions or the “feel” of safety.

The above steps will give you a basic idea of the perception of safety in your district. They give you a starting place for implementing practical solutions as part of a 360° public safety program, creating the most impact for your investment.

For more safety tips and best practices, download our free guide, A 360º Approach to Downtown Safety for Business Improvement Districts.

August 13th, 2013
Free Guide: Downtown Safety for Business Improvement Districts Free Guide: Downtown Safety for Business Improvement Districts

It doesn't take long for frequent, low-level crime to affect the perception of safety in your downtown.

Fortunately, addressing quality of life issues with a comprehensive approach to safety and security can go a long way to improving the perceptions of your business improvement district.

In our free guide, A 360° Approach to Downtown Safety for Business Improvement Districts, we'll explore concepts that are part of an overall strategy to improving perceptions in downtowns. You'll learn:

  • How to perform a safety perceptions assessment.
  • The common mistakes BIDs make when launching a safety program.
  • How to counteract negative perceptions. 
  • How to develop a street-level strategy. 
  • And more!

Click here to downlaod your copy of the guide now.

July 29th, 2013
The Most Common Mistakes in Downtown Safety Programs The Most Common Mistakes in Downtown Safety Programs

Negative perceptions regarding the safety of your downtown district are most commonly fueled by repeated, low-level quality of life crimes. By addressing these issues, you can go a long way to improve the safety of your downtown or business improvement district.

But simply throwing more money at the problem and trying cookie-cutter programs usually aren’t the most effective solutions.

In fact, there are two mistakes that many districts make as they’re setting up their downtown safety programs. By avoiding these common missteps, you can start your safety program on the right foot.

Mistake #1: Not Defining Your Mission

A common mistake many improvement districts make when launching a safety program is not defining exactly what it is they want the safety program to accomplish.

For example, consider a few potential objectives:

  • Proactively engage the public to reinforce positive perceptions.
  • Provide a high level of outreach to the homeless.
  • Provide a proactive response to issues related to nightlife.

Chances are your stakeholders are interested in one or more of these, but it’s important to define what the core mission of your safety program will be. All too often safety programs are deployed and their value comes into question in the absence ofclearly defined goals.

Mistake #2: Not Identifying Your Target Audience

All too often downtown organizations get caught up focusing their safety related resources on the very small portion of the population that negatively affects perceptions, whether it is street performers, panhandlers or homeless persons. 

While engaging perception issues is critical, the needs of the vast majority of a district’s user groups are overlooked under this approach.

Focusing on creating a fantastic district experience for visitors should be a critical part of all safety programs. Attention is drawn to the safety program and a positive impression is created when a visitor has a pleasant interaction with a friendly, highly engaging safety Ambassador. Many times this positive interaction is an essential element in counteracting a negative experience with a quality of life issue beyond your control, such as an encounter with a non-aggressive panhandler.

Customized Solutions

Because your downtown district has its own safety challenges and risk factors, developing a safety program customized to your needs is essential. By clearly defining your mission and identifying your target audience, you can avoid the common pitfalls of downtown safety.

For more safety tips and best practices, download our free guide, A 360º Approach to Downtown Safety for Business Improvement Districts.

July 18th, 2013
3 Ways to Make Your Downtown Safer 3 Ways to Make Your Downtown Safer

Best practices and strategies for ensuring a safe Downtown Improvement District have evolved. Those districts who are “in the know” have evolved their safety approach from a reactive to a proactive approach. So what defines an engaged, proactive safety program? For starters, the program must address security challenges from multiple fronts. Read on to learn three ways you can make your downtown safer.

1. Implement a Safety Ambassador Program

One of the best assets in a comprehensive safety program is the presence of uniformed Ambassadors. They act as a crime deterrent and give peace of mind to district visitors. Most importantly, with well-thought-out, customized training, they can proactively engage the low-level quality of life offenses, which the police often don’t have the time to tend to. Safety Ambassador programs, when well positioned, can be an asset to local police by:

  • Better leveraging the visibility of police (more eyes on the district).
  • Watching for specific persons or activities.
  • Disseminating information to stakeholders.
  • Using technology to help police prioritize the issues important to downtown.

2. Complete Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

On the surface, cleaning and maintenance might not seem to have much to do with safety. But take a moment to imagine an area with graffiti-covered walls, overgrown weeds, broken fixtures and trash. There’s a good chance you don’t feel very safe or secure in this area. To combat this negative perception, focus on the following cleaning and maintenance tasks:

  • Trash - Trash should be removed immediately.
  • Graffiti - Graffiti sends a strong signal that an area does not receive attention and is therefore unsecure. Graffiti and nuisance tags (stickers) should be removed immediately.
  • Landscaping - Landscaping should be trimmed so that it cannot be used as hiding places.
  • Lighting - Adequate lighting serves as a natural deterrent to criminals, and increases the effectiveness of both ambassadors and CCTV by improving visibility. It should also be laid out uniformly, so that drivers do not pass rapidly fromlight to dark areas without time for the eye to adjust.

3. Emphasize Hospitality

Proactive engagement of public concerns has replaced standing around waiting for something to happen. Additionally, safety programs focused on continual public engagement can be highly effective in offsetting negative perceptions or experiences outside of the district’s control. This hospitality-focused approach should be woven into every aspect of training, and done so with an emphasis on consistency.

Downtown Safety Solutions

There are a variety of things to think through when evaluating and addressing district safety. For more tips and best practices, download our free guide, A 360º Approach to Downtown Safety for Business Improvement Districts.

July 2nd, 2013
Ambassadors Get to Work in West Hollywood, CA Ambassadors Get to Work in West Hollywood, CA

On June 1 eleven Block by Block ambassadors took to the streets of West Hollywood, CA as part of the new Santa Monica Boulevard Security Ambassadors program.

The Ambassadors provide supplemental safety, security and hospitality services for the district.

June 27th, 2013
3 Steps to Eliminate Graffiti in Your Downtown District 3 Steps to Eliminate Graffiti in Your Downtown District

The cost of graffiti to your downtown district is huge. Not only does it cost business and property owners money in property damage, it costs the community by having a negative impact on the environment. It intimidates residents, deters tourists and shoppers, and invites other vandals and crime in general.

Your district cannot afford to let graffiti be an issue. Read below for three steps to developing a comprehensive graffiti management program for your downtown district.

1. Eradicate

Remove graffiti as quickly as possible. Allowing graffiti to linger in the area can rapidly breed more. Also, if taggers regularly see their work removed immediately, they will eventually move to another area. Make it your goal to have all graffiti tags removed within 24 hours.

2. Enforce

Work with your local law enforcement to ensure taggers are penalized. Partner with your local government to advocate for laws pertaining to graffiti. These laws should include penalties for those who do the tagging. Property owners must also be required to remove graffiti in a timely fashion.

3. Educate

One of the most successful, yet least used strategies, in graffiti management is education. Let the community know that graffiti is a serious problem. Inform them about what is being done to stop it. Finally, educate them on what they can do to help.

Your Turn

What steps has your district taken to eliminate graffiti?

What tactics has your district used to educate the community about the graffiti issue?

April 11th, 2013
Downtown District Safety Downtown District Safety

There are many issues that can negatively affect how people think about your district. An effective safety program not only reports the unnecessary behaviors, but incorporates strategies to address every detrimental issue your district may face. Some of the key ingredients in creating a dynamic safety/security program include:


Safety programs are most effective when they move beyond reporting to police, and become a valuable resource to local law enforcement. Our programs can better leverage the limited time of the officers in your district by directing them to not only specific situations, but alert them to trends. Additionally, the safety program should be a connector that can integrate the efforts of not only law enforcement, but the many security professionals in your district.

Due to the high visibility of staff and their uniformed presence, security staff will undoubtedly spend a good majority of their time providing information, directions, and hospitality to your downtown visitors, it’s imperative that a strong focus be placed on serving the public through employee selection, training, quality assurance, and the overall culture of your downtown program.

With a Smile

Smiles have replaced mirrored sunglasses, and proactive engagement of public concerns has replaced standing around waiting for something to happen. We can show you how an attitude of "courteous yet firm" can help your district create new standards and change behaviors. We’ve long believed that as our cities struggle with image issues an Ambassador programs focused on continual public engagement can be highly effective in offsetting negative perceptions or experiences outside of the district’s control.


Our company was created to solely serve the needs of improvement districts; we are not a security or janitorial company. Since creating Block by Block, we’ve been exposed to nearly every possible issue facing an urban environment. Through our passion for downtowns and urban areas, we’ve been able to create protocol and training to address the needs of our urban centers.

Hundreds of thousands of hours of on-street experience and real-life situations have been woven into the training that prepares Block by Block Ambassadors for their role in serving your district. To make a Block by Block program not just good, but great, we’ve developed ongoing training for all staff members. All Ambassadors, regardless of location, receive ongoing training in order to make sure their knowledge on your district and skills stay sharp.

These are just a few of the elements that create a fantastic Block by Block program. If you're ready to make your downtown a safery place, get in touch with our contact form!

February 27th, 2013
Social Services Outreach in Downtowns Social Services Outreach in Downtowns

No matter what size your city, you've probably experienced the negative perceptions that come with the concerns of homelessness and quality of life issues, such as panhandling, drinking in public, and loitering. Homelessness often contributes to the perception of downtowns being unsafe; however, what many people fail to realize is that not all homeless people commit crimes, and homelessness itself isn’t a crime. We believe in the effectiveness of addressing these issues while still maintaining a high regard for dignity, respect, and social responsibility. Some of our strategies include the following:

Social Service Outreach Professionals

In a number of cities, we employ trained social workers to serve as coordinators of overall team efforts and to work with local outreach partners to provide strategic case level management of the most visible homeless persons in our districts. These professionals can provide training as to what resources are available to the homeless in form of food, shelter, vocational training, addiction services, and health care needs.

Social Service Outreach Ambassadors

Within our safety programs we've created Ambassador positions that have a primary role of engaging homeless persons to establish individual needs, and working through local Outreach Agencies to connect these persons with available services. This approach has been very successful in reducing the number of homeless on the streets in many of our cities.

Training and Ownership for All

You never know who will form a bond with a person in need. All front line Ambassadors, both safety and cleaning Ambassadors, are trained in social service issues and how to connect a person with the help they need, as well as building relationships with the homeless through daily interaction.

While we do offer social service outreach to the homeless, there are many homeless persons who choose to live their life on the streets. In this case, Ambassadors are trained to closely monitor the homeless individual to ensure their compliance with all local laws and ordinances.

If you’re ready to create a more safe and friendly downtown environment, get in touch with our contact form!

February 27th, 2013
Downtown Landscaping Downtown Landscaping

Landscaping doesn't just change the way a district looks, but also how people treat and react to your district, and each other. One of the most powerful ways to instantly transform the street level atmosphere of a district is through the addition of the greenery and color of a landscaping program. Whether it's hundreds of hanging baskets throughout your district or a handful of planters in a central gathering spot, landscaping can instantly change how people feel about and treat their surroundings.

Landscaping services most often include:

  • Planting of ground level beds or planters
  • Planting and hanging of baskets
  • Ongoing watering and fertilizing
  • Weeding of beds and ‘dead heading’ of plants


Through our history of serving districts, we’ve become more proficient at not only landscape maintenance but also on the selection and configuration of planted areas. The composition of your landscaping should be well thought out taking into consideration not only seasonality and climate, but more importantly how the creative deployment of flower types and colors can create a unique character through individual parts of your district.

 Ongoing Care

Your investment into your landscaping program is a significant one. Most often the largest cost associated with a landscaping program is not in the plants themselves, but in their ongoing watering and maintenance. Through planning and experience we can help you allocate the right amount of resources to maximize the vibrancy of your landscape program.

 For more information about improving your downtown’s appearance, get in touch by filling out our contact form!

February 27th, 2013
Downtown Hospitality Downtown Hospitality

Your district is more than just a collection of buildings, stores and restaurants. It’s about the experience district workers, residents and visitors have while they’re in your district.

By providing this great district experience, you can attract another important group: investors!

Start With the Right People

Since we began providing services to improvement district services more than fifteen years ago, we recognized the importance of selecting not just hard working people, but friendly, engaging people to comprise our ambassador teams.

Empower Ambassadors to Serve

The unique training concepts developed for our hospitality-centric programs have been woven into every Block by Block program. Making certain every Ambassador has hospitality skills ensures we play a significant role in delivering the right experience for your district.

Ambassadors are not only trained, but encouraged to find meaningful ways to improve someone's district experience.

Focus on Continuous Engagement

Our hospitality programs are focused on continual engagements to deliver smiles and greetings to as many people as possible. We've found that delivering information and friendly conversation easily follows.

If you're ready to make your downtown district friendlier, get in touch with our contact form!

February 26th, 2013
Cleaning Business Improvement Districts Cleaning Business Improvement Districts

Great first impressions start with the appearance of a district. Low-level issues such as litter, graffiti, weeds and overflowing trashcans communicate volumes about a district’s priorities. As we all know, a clean district affects the area’s level of security and people’s behaviors.

Attention to Detail

Picking up litter and removing graffiti just scratches the surface of creating an impressively clean district. There are many other elements of your district that need the attention of your clean team in order to create a fantastic first impression. Some of these tasks are:

• Litter abatement
• Graffiti removal – Ambassadors can remove nuisance tags using graffiti removers, rags and scrapers while they make their patrols.
• Power washing - While most vendors refer to power washing as the scheduled, even washing of all sidewalks, we believe the greatest impact each day will come from quick response to spills and stains that arise through the course of the day.

In addition to these larger tasks, every district has opportunities to raise the standard of cleaning by paying attention to detail. Some of these opportunities include:

• Newspaper boxes – Boxes should be neatly aligned. In most districts, broken and abandoned news racks are removed to eliminate unsightly clutter.
• Neat and clean trashcans - Trashcan lids should be wiped and placed neatly on trashcans. Shouldn’t the trash can lid be cleaner than the trash inside of the can?
• Fixture cleaning - All news boxes, mailboxes and other public fixtures should be damp wiped.

Special Cleaning Projects

It is possible to enhance the appearance of your district by adding a layer of services beyond the simply removing litter and emptying trash receptacles.

A certain amount of time should be spent carrying out special projects that truly change the long-term appearance of the area. This includes identifying elements in your downtown that would benefit from some type of painting, such as light poles, fire hydrants, trashcan lids and bollards.

If you're ready to maximize your investment and take your district's appearance to a whole new level, get in touch with our contact form!

February 26th, 2013
Downtown Reporting Technology: SMART System Downtown Reporting Technology: SMART System

Now more than ever, data is an essential part of justifying BID value and building support for new initiatives. For this reason we've developed the SMART System (Statistical Management & Ambassador Reporting Technology).

Early in our improvement district experience we recognized the importance of establishing methods of tracking activities, accomplishments, and ongoing district needs. As our programs and understanding have evolved, so have our reporting capabilities.

The Value of Data

SMART System allows Block by Block to collect data on a day-to-day, ambassador-by-ambassador basis. Because no two improvement districts are alike, administrators can create and customize each program’s desired metrics to be tracked. Examples of the metrics that can be tracked are:

  • Number of illegal dumping instances
  • Abandoned shopping carts removed
  • Instances of public drinking

This data can then be used to generate customizable reports, to which administrators can add photos, narratives, and then select the tasks and date ranges they wish to include in the report. Through our easy-to-use report builder, data can be depicted in graphs or tables. Finally, when a report is complete, the administrator can quickly generate a PDF file, which can be shared electronically. The best part is all this custom-report functionality only takes a few minutes to generate.
Here are just a few direct results that the SMART System data analytics has produced:

  • Helped 22% more pedestrians since November 2012
  • Reduced aggressive panhandling by 64% since 2012
  • Reduced graffiti tags by 91% since program inception
  • Reduced power washing water consumption by 15%
  • The most-interacted-with homeless person in the summer of 2012 is now in temporary housing

To learn more about SMART System and how it supports improving your improvement district, get in touch with our contact form.

February 26th, 2013
2013 Super Bowl and Mardi Gras Clean-Up a Success 2013 Super Bowl and Mardi Gras Clean-Up a Success

New Orleans has been bustling with over 150,000 visitors during the month of February for not only the Super Bowl on Sunday, February 3, but for Mardi Gras kicking off on Tuesday, February 12.

In an effort to keep downtown New Orleans at its best during the two high-traffic events, the Downtown Development District (DDD) has ramped up their efforts by increasing the number of Clean Team workers to be on duty. During Super Bowl festivities, at least 19 workers per shift were responsible for litter abatement and pressure washing. During Mardi Gras celebrations, anywhere from 17 to 65 Clean Team members at any given time were found serving the city.

As the city entered the final stretch, some workers admitted they were feeling the fatigue.

"I'd be lying if I said they (the street cleaning team members) weren't tired right now. That's why we're going to give them a couple days down right here," said Downtown Development District President and CEO Kurt Weigle.

The clean team has felt the pressure to wash and sweep streets downtown. During a normal week, the DDD employs 24 to 30 workers on several eight-hour shifts. For the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras, they're working 12-hour shifts.

"They're doing this job not just because it's a job, but because they love downtown and the city of New Orleans," Weigle said. "When you're working for something you love, you work harder for it, and you're willing to go that extra mile."

February 21st, 2013
Bed Stuy Clean-Up Begins Bed Stuy Clean-Up Begins

Block by Block began servicing Bed Stuy Gateway Business Improvement District last week in Brooklyn, NY. Bed Stuy’s previous contractor had neglected the district in the waning days, but the Block by Block team was up for the task and has quickly raised the standards of the district.

See below for before, during and after photos of the transformation of  Bed Stuy Gateway BID!



February 21st, 2013
Host Lobby Fairs to Make Your Downtown District Friendlier Host Lobby Fairs to Make Your Downtown District Friendlier

Downtown workers are the most captive audience your downtown improvement district has. The challenge is to convert these workers into true downtown users or even residents.

To do this, the worker must see downtown as a friendly, hospitable atmosphere. Safe and clean programs play a crucial role in this, but often downtown workers are unaware of the impact of the improvement district.

A lobby fair is one way to inform downtown workers of the services, amenities and attractions available downtown and through the safe and clean program.

What is a Lobby Fair?

Lobby fairs are informal displays hosted by Ambassadors in uniform in the lobby of high-traffic businesses downtown. They usually include a highly visual tabletop display or mobile kiosk that features flyers, brochures and other marketing materials. Ambassadors greet workers as they pass by the display and try to engage them without being intrusive.

When Should Lobby Fairs Be Held?

Lobby fairs should be held when the most people will be present, typically in the morning, at lunch and at the end of the day. The lunch hour is often ideal, as people aren’t as rushed to get to work or home.

What Should Be Displayed?

Display high-impact visuals that can capture attention in just a few seconds. Before and after photos, and photos of equipment and Ambassadors in action are great. Statistics are also attention-grabbers. Having promotional items to give away, like pens or flashlights, is also recommended. You should also have maps, guides, brochures and any educational campaign materials on hand.

Keep in mind the most important function of a lobby fair is to connect with people who might not be aware of your district. As part of this, pedestrians should be made aware of the valuable information your organization makes available through various media, such as your website, mobile app or weekly event blasts.

More Hospitality Tips

For more ways to bring hospitality to your downtown, download our free guide, 10 Ways to Make Your Downtown Improvement District Friendlier.

Your Turn

Has your district hosted a lobby fair?

January 15th, 2013
Ideas for Special Events and Promotions for Downtown Districts Ideas for Special Events and Promotions for Downtown Districts

Sponsoring special events and promotions downtown is a great way to add a new dimension to the social culture of your district. They build camaraderie among the workers, residents and visitors, make your downtown more hospitable, and raise awareness for your organization.

Below are several ideas for special events and promotions your improvement district can sponsor. Be sure to work with the local government to secure required permits and coordinate with law enforcement to close streets as needed.


Farmers’ Market

Host a Farmers’ Market for local farmers, artists and craftsman. Vendors can rent spaces or canopies where they can showcase their produce, meats, cheeses, jellies, crafts and more. An informational kiosk about the improvement district is also helpful.


Holiday Ice Rink

An ice skating is a fun and exciting draw to your district’s holiday activities. Portable venues are available in many sizes and make ice skating possible anywhere in the country in every climate. They can build a considerable amount of traffic and improve revenues for downtown businesses.


Pop-Up Art Gallery

Turn vacant commercial space into a pop-up art gallery. Property owners give artists short-term leases, and if the space gets rented, they have ten days to vacate the property and return it to its original condition. This is a great way to help landlords rent their property and offer local artists an opportunity to display their work, all while beautifying the downtown district and adding a cultural draw.


More Hospitality Tips

For more ways to bring hospitality to your downtown, download our free guide, 10 Ways to Make Your Downtown Improvement District Friendlier.


Your Turn

What special events has your district sponsored?

December 18th, 2012
Improve Parking and Transportation to Make Your Downtown Friendlier Improve Parking and Transportation to Make Your Downtown Friendlier

Parking and transportation are a challenge for most large downtowns, frustrating residents and visitors, and even discouraging trips downtown. Alleviating this concern can go a long way in making your downtown friendlier.

Make Parking Pleasant

The downtown experience often begins and ends in a parking garage or lot. An unfriendly or disinterested parking attendant sets a negative tone for the entire experience. For this reason, ensure that parking facility operating companies are committed to achieving high customer service standards.

As with ambassadors, personality should be a primary consideration when hiring parking lot attendants. Provide initial and ongoing training to parking lot attendants so they are able to adequately assist people. Training should include knowledge of downtown and having an “expert” knowledge of the most frequently asked questions.

Offer Parking Meter Change

Ambassadors are often asked if they have spare change or change for a dollar to help with parking meters. Train ambassadors to notice people parked at meters that appear to be searching for change. Ambassadorsshould greet the individual with a friendly smile and offer of assistance. They can provide change for the meter as well as additional information, like directions or marketing material.

Provide Transportation Options

Consider offering free access to designated bus routes during lunch hours to encourage downtown workers to visit local restaurants. Additionally, a public bicycle-sharing program offers the convenience and flexibility of a private vehicle, with the accessibility and reliability of public mass transit. They allow quick access to all areas of downtown, without the hassles of parking a car or waiting for transit schedules.

More Hospitality Tips

For more ways to bring hospitality to your downtown, download our free guide, 10 Ways to Make Your Downtown Improvement District Friendlier.

Your Turn

How does your downtown make parking and transportation friendlier?

December 4th, 2012
The Single Most Important Factor to Make Your Downtown District Friendlier The Single Most Important Factor to Make Your Downtown District Friendlier

Your downtown improvement district could have the best attractions, the best restaurants and the best shopping, but if a visitor has one negative interaction with a downtown Ambassador, your city will leave a bad taste in their mouth. 

That’s because downtown Ambassadors are the single most important factor in making your improvement district friendlier.

Just as a negative interaction will leave a sour taste, one over-the-top positive experience with a downtown Ambassador will have them raving about your district.

To ensure that your Ambassadors always have visitors singing your city’s praises, you must be extremely selective when hiring. It’s important to “hire for personality and train for skills.”

There is a difference between an ambassador that is waiting for something to happen and one that has the skills to interact with the public. It’s critical to uncover these abilities during the interview process.

People with outgoing and caring personalities need only to be equipped with customer service skills and knowledge of the district to become excellent Ambassadors.

Ambassadors should be trained to recognize opportunities to help someone in need, and be encouraged to go out of their way to make someone’s day and help build special memories.

Opportunities to demonstrate hospitality include friendly gestures like opening doors, assisting with packages or bags and taking group photos. These friendly actions, combined with simple things like smiling and making eye contact, become contagious and create an atmosphere of friendliness and hospitality.

For more ways to bring hospitality to your downtown, download our free guide, 10 Ways to Make Your Downtown Improvement District Friendlier.

Your Turn

How do your city’s Ambassadors make your downtown friendlier?

What qualities do you look for when hiring Ambassadors?

September 21st, 2012
Hurricane Isaac Cleanup Efforts are Underway in Downtown New Orleans Hurricane Isaac Cleanup Efforts are Underway in Downtown New Orleans

Block by Block's Hurricane Isaac cleanup efforts in New Orleans' Central Business District (CBD) started at dawn on Thursday, August 30. Priority has been to remove debris from major thoroughfares to make them safe for passage. Approximately 25  regular and temporary Ambassadors initiated the cleanup with over ten cleaners staying for completion of the second shift at 10:00 PM. Canal Street, Poydras Street, St. Charles and Carondelet were all complete by the close of the first day. Using over 1000 can liners, 50,000 pounds of debris was collected and removed from the streets.

Ambassadors stepped up Friday with a team of over 42 cleaners to complete debris pickup of the Finance zone, 60% of the Medical zone, and 70% of the Warehouse zone. Back on Canal Street, two Clean Team members maintained the area for the day. In total, Ambassadors used another 700 can liners and collected another 35,000 pounds of debris. The entire district is scheduled to be removed of all waste by 7:00 PM Saturday, September 1.

Block by Block's experience gained in managing temporary labor and the cleanup of large amounts of trash during the Mardi Gras season helped tremendously. All waste was bagged and tagged for City Sanitation services to dispose, while large tree debris was moved to street corners and piled up neatly for the Downtown Development District emergency tree removal contractor to pick up.

Before and after photos of Block by Block's post-storm cleanup are below:





For more details on Block by Block and the Downtown Development District's post-storm cleanup efforts of Downtown New Orleans, visit

September 1st, 2012
Downtown Yakima Clean-Up Begins Downtown Yakima Clean-Up Begins

Block by Block began clean-up and beautification services this week in Downtown Yakima's 77-block Business Improvement District. More than a half-dozen Ambassadors took to the streets and are on patrol for trash, weeds and graffiti.

See below for before, during and after photos of the transformation of Downtown Yakima!






July 5th, 2012
Power Washing Best Practices for Downtowns Power Washing Best Practices for Downtowns

Not only can power washing dramatically improve the appearance of a downtown business improvement district — by removing graffiti, gum and debris from sidewalks and block faces — it can increase safety and enhance the overall feeling of security. While power washing has obvious benefits, it can also cause costly damage if not performed correctly. Read below for things to consider before beginning a power washing program in your district.  

Know what you want to accomplish with a power washing program.

Before any power washing program can begin, the district’s objectives must be defined. Are the services to be performed on an as-needed basis for spot-washing spills and stains? Or does the district need evenly scheduled washing – which has more long-term benefits but is also more time-consuming?

Balance the right time to clean throughout the district.

As it is for all street-level cleaning operations, the pedestrian density of a district requires a firm deployment plan. While the benefits of power washing should be highly visible to stakeholders, residents, and visitors, you also want to deliver services at a time when the team can be seen without disrupting reasonable pedestrian movement.

The district should decide whether this power washing schedule should be accomplished during regular daytime hours, on an overnight basis, or at other ‘non-peak’ times to minimize disruptions.

Determine what collection and disposal method will be used for wastewater, and obtain required permits or authorizations.

Many municipalities do not allow the wastewater from power washing to enter the storm drainage system, as water in this system flows directly into local lakes and rivers without being cleaned or treated. However, power wash equipment is available that will allow you to recycle a significant portion of the wastewater.

Because of the environmental impact of power washing, many municipalities require permits for the disposal of wastewater. Check with your local government to determine specific regulations in your area.

Take a scaled approach with both chemicals and amount of pressure.

Many chemicals, even those labeled non-toxic or biodegradable, can be harmful to plants and animals. Start with gentle all-purpose cleaners first, progressing to stronger chemicals and products only as a last resort. This will protect the environment and ensure little to no damage is done to the surface.

Use the minimum amount of pressure necessary to effectively clean the surface. This prevents surfaces from being damaged, and uses less water, which saves money in disposal costs and decreases the possibility of water damage. When cleaning softer surfaces, like wood decking or fencing, keep the wand an adequate distance from the surface to prevent splitting or leaving wand marks.

Follow proper safety precautions.

Always wear safety goggles as well as sturdy shoes and gloves while power washing. Be sure the unit is turned off when changing nozzle tips, and never aim the wand near people or fragile surfaces.

Be smart.

Power washing performed carelessly can permanently damage surfaces and harm people and property. Before beginning a power washing program in your downtown district, ensure technicians are properly trained and consider consulting a professional provider.

June 11th, 2012
Summer Cleaning Checklist for BIDs Summer Cleaning Checklist for BIDs

Peak season has arrived for most downtown districts, and summer is the perfect time to tackle those cleaning projects that keep your district from looking its best.

Our SummerCleaning Checklist is full of ways to dramatically improve the appearance of your district. Download your free copy to learn useful tips and tricks for getting your city in top shape this season.

Simply complete our online form to get your free copy.

Download now

May 3rd, 2012
Gearing Up for a New Season Gearing Up for a New Season

The snow is melting and the days are getting longer. That can only mean one thing: my favorite season, baseball season, is right around the corner!

Many of our cities have their own professional baseball teams, from the Class A South Bend Indiana Silver Hawks to the major league Pittsburgh Pirates. While the excitement for a new season is building in each city, these teams know that now is the time to put in the practice and preparation that will lead to a successful season.

The same is true for your downtown Ambassador team. Putting in a little extra work now to get the team in top shape could mean a record-breaking season.

Review Your Stats

Before your team hits the field, managers should take a critical look at their program, evaluating their resources and the strengths and weaknesses of key players. Take time to review your annual statistics in order to identify opportunities and plan new initiatives.

  • How did we perform last year?
  •  What are our strengths and weaknesses?
  • What changes are needed to put a championship team in play for the coming season?

Spring Training

As with almost every team, there comes a time when we need to get back to the basics. For Ambassador teams in downtown improvement districts, that means reviewing fundamental customer service skills and cleaning and safety procedures, and assessing your deployment assignments. Spring is also a great time to perform pre-season equipment maintenance and review your inventory of uniforms and supplies.

  •  What skills and procedures need to be reinforced?
  • Should training programs or schedules be adjusted?
  • Are deployment assignments as efficient and effective as possible?

Opening Day

As opening day approaches, pump up Ambassador training to ensure skills stay fresh. You might even want to kick off the season with a team photo and lunch featuring ballpark favorites.

If you’ve carefully reviewed your stats and worked hard during Spring Training, your Ambassador team will be ready for an exciting season full of activities, events and — most importantly — baseball.

By the way, MLB Opening Day is April 4. Happy baseball season!
Charlie Stevens serves as Block by Block's Regional Vice President of the Great Lakes Region, based in Cleveland, Ohio.

March 29th, 2012
Jackson Heights BID Touts New Look Jackson Heights BID Touts New Look

City Small Businesses Services Commissioner Robert Walsh said the 82nd Street Business Improvement District has a new name and a new sanitation contract as part of the ongoing campaign to turn the organization, and the business strip it serves, around.

To solve the street’s trash and graffiti problems, the board hired Block by Block to remove graffiti and plant and water trees. Walsh said the sanitation workers will have 82nd Street logos and will be a visible presence in the district.

To read more on Block by Block's cleanup of the 82nd Street Business Improvement District, visit the Times Ledger.

March 5th, 2012
2012 Mardi Gras Clean-Up: Best Year Yet 2012 Mardi Gras Clean-Up: Best Year Yet

The New Orleans Downtown Development District praised the efforts of Block by Block’s Clean Team on their hard work and dedication to the clean-up not just before and after, but during, the 2012 Mardi Gras festivities. DDD President and CEO, Kurt Weigle, stated, “This was our best year yet!”

Since 2007, Block by Block has served the DDD which is responsible for the New Orleans Central Business District. During the Mardi Gras season, Block by Block expands the usual 20-person team to nearly 60 in support of the substantial clean-up efforts.

“Once again, I would like to thank and commend the entire Block by Block team for its hard work. Special kudos to the team leaders for stepping up!  It would not have been as smooth without their effort and the rest of the regular crew,” said Richard McCall, Director of Operations.

See below for photos of Block by Block’s clean-up efforts before, during, and after Mardi Gras events.


February 27th, 2012
A BID's Guide to Event Organization A BID's Guide to Event Organization

In many industries, eight years is just a drop in the bucket of time; but in the improvement district world, eight years is time enough to see a myriad of changes and transformations occur. 

What is so magical about eight years?  Nothing really – except that it’s the amount of time I’ve spent in this industry, which has also proven to be a period of continual change in our nation’s city centers along with the mission of downtown organizations.

So then what’s changed?  While that list is quite lengthy, one that I find particularly of interest is how Block by Block delivers basic services through events.

When I entered the industry as an Operations Manager assigned to the Louisville Downtown Management District, my district and those of my peers at Block By Block were focused primarily on supplementing supporting the mission of our downtown organizations to ensure basic expectations of a safe and clean environment were met. Sure, some downtown organizations had a research staff or advocated for downtown development; but beyond providing personnel for safety and cleaning purposes, most had little to do with event planning or production.

Today, districts of every size are moving beyond creating the great environment and are finding that events are engines that drive community involvement in and visitors to downtown.  Organizations with which I’m involved in my role as a Regional Vice President are taking on an increased role in planning and implementation of highly successful annual, seasonal and weekly events. For example, the farmer’s market produced by the Downtown Community Alliance/Operation Downtown in Des Moines, IA, draws upwards of 30,000 visitors every Saturday morning from late spring through early fall and a mid-week market. Starting just this past summer, it saw several thousand lunch time participants.  During my tenure, I’ve witnessed the farmer’s market concept take flight in our other cities with great success such as Raleigh, NC (Downtown Raleigh Alliance) and Columbia, SC (City Center Partnership). Both of these cities use them to cultivate involvement in downtown and to prime interest in other downtown-centric events and businesses.

Start Small

This brings me to another point that events have helped me recognize, starting small is OK, but the real key is starting.  Raleigh’s initial market started slow, but the seeds were sown; and through commitment and solid leadership, those early efforts have paid off and spawned not only a successful weekly market but other events as well. 

I’ve recognized a large staff isn’t a necessity to pull off a successful event, as many of our cities have found success with volunteer groups and partner organizations that can and will assist. 

Connect Volunteers and Community Groups

In many instances, you may find that others in the community have similar ideas and initiatives. Often they have the energy, expertise, and resources but lack the contacts necessary to make it happen.  Simply helping locate available space and putting the right people in contact with one another is all it may take to see events go from concept to reality and ultimately meet the desired objective – increased awareness of and demand for downtown.

As an operational minded person, I’m always intrigued with not only the events themselves, but how they are produced. Obviously there must be a contingent that is responsible for setting up and dismantling the event venue along with staff that will help in delivering day-of operational support, which usually comes in the form of ongoing cleaning and security.

Utilize Your Ambassador Team

If your organization has a safety or cleaning program, your existing team can usually serve as a contingency of capable personnel that will allow you to ramp up and back down quickly. Most of our partner cities have found that the same staff that provides hospitality, safety and cleaning on a daily basis is more than capable of handling events. This concept is furthered in our programs based on Block by Block’s mantra of hiring for personality and training for skills. 

In planning for events, you should expect a cost to using your existing Ambassador team.  You may have to adjust your coverage expectations on event days as staff are focused on pulling off a successful event; but time and time again, our partners have found that the positive dynamics of a successful event more than offset a couple of extra pieces of litter in the far flung reaches of the district in order to support the event within the existing pool of resources.

I wish you the best as you find your own unique reasons for gathering that will draw folks from near and far to experience the best of what your downtown has to offer!


James Wells serves as Block by Block’s Regional Vice President of the Midwest Region, based in Louisville, KY. James is a ten year employee of Block by Block after starting his career as the Operations Manager assigned to lead the Louisville Downtown Management District’s Safety and Clean Team in March 2003.

February 15th, 2012
Immediate Cleanup of Bridgeport, CT Begins Immediate Cleanup of Bridgeport, CT Begins

The cleanup of Downtown Bridgeport, CT is off and running with a great day so far!

Shared below are a series of six before-and after-photos that will provide Block by Block's vision of our detailed approach to cleaning that is being implemented today.

February 15th, 2012
One Surefire Way to Keep Developers Out of Your BID One Surefire Way to Keep Developers Out of Your BID

Over the course of the last eight years of traveling to districts across the country, I’ve become more mesmerized by the level of negative impact our communities allow to be communicated through visible cleaning issues present in our downtowns. I’m even more engrossed with the messages that are allowed to be communicated by our downtowns.

Identified cleaning issues tell the world vast stories about our American cities – where they are and where they’ve been – but more importantly they tell stories of where they are going. Cleaning issues, such as litter, graffiti, abandoned news racks, and neglected infrastructure are open books that tell the complete stories of cities, leadership of the cities, and where the district is headed.

Savvy developers don’t need to see a Target or a Whole Foods; what they do need to see is a district that seems to have its priorities straight in respect to litter, weeds, graffiti and other details that support a positive district experience.  While your district may have holes in the retail mix and your fair share of creative window coverings to block the pedestrians ability to see the shell of the store from the front window, a clean district will communicate that everyone in your district and city is committed to creating the right environment.

Every district and city is tight on resources; but if you have only one arrow in your quiver today, make graffiti you’re number one target. If you want to run off a qualified developer (yes, some still do have financing!) in a New York minute, leave the graffiti on your public infrastructure. If you want to make sure they write you off for good, make sure your graffiti is allowed to fester on building facades. Nothing screams “buyer beware” more than tagged brick or masonry.

If you’re ready to learn more about how to further prioritize your available resources, we’re always up for a good challenge!


Blair McBride is the Executive Vice President of Block by Block and has designed safety and cleaning programs for more than 25 BIDs of all sizes across the country. Blair can be reached at

February 3rd, 2012