Three of the four Tax Allocation Districts that Columbus Council has approved so far are blighted areas. But the other one centers on downtown, which faces a different kind of challenge.
Uptown Columbus CEO Richard Bishop, who lobbied council to approve the TAD, said he may have had a tougher time selling the Uptown TAD than those pushing the other three, but ultimately councilors saw the wisdom in approving it.
“As council always does, they look at things as they should, at the total picture and very in-depth,” Bishop said. “They wanted to take a hard look at it, they wanted to make sure that we got them all the information they needed, and from there I think they made the right decision on Tuesday.”
Part of what Bishop was fighting was the success story that downtown has been in the last 20 years.
Also, there are infrastructure challenges down here. There’s no question that we’re the oldest part of the city, and the infrastructure off of Broadway is 100-plus years old.
Uptown Columbus CEO Richard Bishop
“There’s a perception that Uptown has got a lot going on, so they don’t need incentives to drive economic development. From somebody driving down here on a Saturday or a Thursday or Friday night, you could probably think that,” Bishop said. “But at the same time, there is so much more to be done in this area. And the areas that it has to be done in are not the areas that were as easy as they were in the past.”
Two of the qualifying characteristics for becoming a TAD district are having “underutilized” property, and infrastructure problems, Bishop said.
“Undeveloped sites, we have plenty of those down here,” Bishop said. “Also, there are infrastructure challenges down here. There’s no question that we’re the oldest part of the city, and the infrastructure off of Broadway is 100-plus years old. I think over time, as those systems start to fail, the city is going to have to deal with them. This gives the city a great opportunity to develop a master plan, like the city did with streetscapes.”
In advocating for the TADs to be approved, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson also said downtown falls into the category of having underutilized property and infrastructure challenges.
“We think of the 1100 block as being very vibrant, but we sort of forget sometimes that it’s sitting on top of really old infrastructure, as we’re seeing with the 11th Street problems,” Tomlinson said. “Any one block down there could cause a serious situation down there, disrupting that area. And then of course you have underutilized and vacant lots sprinkled throughout it.”
When a TAD is established, revenue bonds can be issued to address problems that might otherwise discourage investors or developers from coming into the area. Those problems could be infrastructure shortcomings or environmental problems that would not be cost effective for private developers to address.
Once development takes place and property values increase, the extra tax revenue created is then used to repay the revenue bonds or otherwise invest in the district over the 20-to-30-year life of the TAD. Once the TAD is retired, the increased taxes flow back to the city and school district.
The Uptown TAD district is bordered by 14th Street on the north, the river on the west, Sixth and Eighth Streets on the south and Veterans Parkway and Third Avenue on the east. It involves 389 parcels on 194 downtown acres with a fair market value of $339 million and taxable value of $48 million.
The TADs passed Tuesday will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2017, but Bishop said he would not be surprised to see people starting to make development and investment plans well in advance of that date.