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VOL. 127 | NO. 239 | Friday, December 7, 2012

Agency to Weigh Plan for Heritage Trails in Early 2013

By Bill Dries

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The group that will determine whether there is a tax increment financing zone for the city’s Heritage Trails redevelopment plan should begin considering the specifics of the development plan itself starting in mid-January.

The Community Redevelopment Agency had a City Hall meeting room full of approximately 50 people Thursday, Dec. 6, with Heritage Trails on the agenda for an update.

The Heritage Trails area includes a large area of south Downtown into South Memphis.

The development over 20 years would be financed and leverage private investment with property tax revenue captured within the large area. The method is called tax increment financing.

Those at the meeting included opponents of the plan who back an alternative plan that would specifically protect the Foote Homes public housing development from any demolition. And those governing other smaller redevelopment areas within the Heritage Trails footprint are seeking clarification on how the tax increment financing would affect payments-in-lieu-of-taxes incentives they use to finance development.

Agency board chairman Mike Frick said a committee is to come up with a recommendation at a Jan. 17 meeting for the agency to first consider at its Feb. 7 meeting.

And he acknowledged the group is weighing how the tax increment financing zone would impact the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program already used in the area for different efforts.

Both financing methods involve property tax revenue.

Downtown Memphis Commission president Paul Morris said the two methods are “not mutually exclusive.”

The PILOT payments his organization’s Center City Revenue Finance Corp. makes to city and county governments are not property tax revenues that would be used in a TIF zone for Heritage Trails.

And that is the concern.

“So there would be some pressure on the Community Redevelopment Agency if it had a TIF to keep us from doing PILOTs because that PILOT would have the money go to the city and county instead of the (agency),” Morris said.

Any development plan and tax increment financing zone approved by the Community Redevelopment Agency would then go to the Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission for approval.

“You are kind of riding along side the board with what we know,” said agency chairman Mike Frick to opponents of the plan who wanted to know when they could speak against it. “Y’all are seeing things at about the same time the board is seeing it. … I don’t know what we’re really debating yet.”

University of Memphis urban planning professor Ken Reardon, the leader of the Vance Avenue Collaborative effort seeking to preserve and renovate Foote Homes, pushed for consideration of the collaborative plan instead of the city plan, which is expected to call for the demolition of what is the city’s last large public housing project.

Frick said the group was free to develop its own application and submit it to the agency board.

“I’m not sure where this body stands on that plan,” he told Reardon.

Reardon also asked the group to direct city Housing and Community Development director Robert Lipscomb to meet with the collaborative. Frick said that wasn’t within the agency’s purview.

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