Monday, July 16, 2012

Was The CentrePointe TIF Area Not Well Thought Out?

As of Friday afternoon, the Lexington History Museum has been closed due to excessive paint dust which contains lead. Lead paint was used almost exclusively in the prime years of the old court house, both before and after the major remodeling which took place in the '60s.

I find it interesting that this announcement comes just after I posted about Lexington's lack of will to maintain (or complete) many of their projects of late. This is just another example.

For the last 4 years now, the old court house has been THE major building residing in the Urban County Council designated Phoenix Park/Courthouse Area TIF district, or what everyone else calls the CentrePointe TIF area. Almost all of the rest of the properties are street rights-of-way, parking lots or other government owned park property. That makes the CentrePointe project and the McCarthy's block of buildings the sole generators of any taxes which may be incremented.

The beneficiaries of these funds are quite specific:
  • A tunnel connecting Phoenix Park to CentrePointe. (No longer a part of the Project)
  • A pedway connecting the Financial Center Garage to CentrePointe. (also not a part)
  • A Phoenix Park Garage. (has been removed from project)
  • Restoration of the Fayette County Courthouse and Cheapside Park / Plaza.
  • Makeover of old courthouse building including new roof, windows, atrium, and infrastructure. In addition, the courthouse plaza will be redeveloped to include the proposed closing of Cheapside Road. (Except for the restoration, all of this has been done)
  • Permanent display space and building for the Lexington Farmer's Market. Though not built to the detailed specs, this is essentially complete.
  • Streetscape improvements including street art. Main and Vine are done Lime, Upper and Short are lacking.
That is it. Straight from the TIF agreement of September of 2009. CentrePointe has been scaled back and much of the other work has been financed by some other method. And the old Court House waits, and waits.

The taxes from which these funds are to come are also spelled out in the document:
  • Ad Valorem Property Taxes levied under KRS 132.020(1)(a)
  • Individual Income Taxes levied under KRS 141.020
  • Sales Taxes levied under KRS 139.200

At present, I guess that only the McCarthy's crew and the reduced property value of the pasture are paying into that amount and it is well below what was projected on that block.

Meanwhile, as documented here and elsewhere, the Short St blocks (plural) are very much alive with NEW businesses, NEW sales and NEW property values due to the renovation work being done. This is money that could have and should have been added to the TIF calculations. I don't think that many people saw the revitalization of Short St four years ago and certainly not without government support. I can see success building on success in this area and yet I also see the opportunity to leverage this growth into the repair and renovation of the Lexington History Museum slipping quietly away.

I have been a very big supporter of the CentrePointe project from its initial announcement and still believe that something will break soon. I see the 21c hotel as being one more major enhancement for downtown but the ability to use its increment for public projects will also be lost if something isn't done soon.

If I read the agreement correctly, the agreement is self renewing unless one of the parties gives written notice 60 days prior to the annual termination date of Sept 23. I have heard of no public declaration that anyone has asked for a termination, but it may have happened.   Perhaps we should terminate this one and prepare a new one in order to fulfill the promise which the revitalization of Short St has shown for downtown.

If you wish to read the agreement, you can find it here.  The map of the TIF district is on page 18.

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