Two downtown projects to apply for tax breaks

Friday, January 30, 2009 | 11:59 a.m. CST; updated 6:23 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 31, 2009

COLUMBIA — The Tiger Hotel and the "District Village" at Tenth and Locust streets will be the first downtown redevelopment projects to apply for special tax breaks offered by the city for the first time.

Columbia has requested proposals from the two projects, due Feb. 9, targeting them as developments that would benefit from tax-increment financing.

"Good quality development in the downtown area is going to spur additional good quality development," Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said. "In order to make that good quality development happen, (some projects) need assistance from the city."

Tax-increment financing, or TIF, is an economic incentive that freezes the value of a property before any construction. As a developer improves a property, the difference between the frozen property value and the real property value is invested into a "special allocation fund," along with a percentage of the city's incremental sales and utility tax revenue. That money can then be used to pay for the redevelopment or for infrastructure needs such as improved sidewalks or relocated utilities.

Developers can receive TIF assistance only if their projects demonstrate “a substantial and significant public benefit,” such as creating new jobs, eliminating blight or strengthening Columbia’s economy. Developers also must demonstrate that their projects would be impossible without help from the city.

The Tiger Hotel owner John Ott said he wants to restore the building to its former glory and bring more people downtown.

"Bringing hotel rooms to the district would be a huge public benefit," Ott said. "It's the missing component to the rest of downtown."

Ott estimated that, on most days, about 100 people would stay in the hotel and spend money in downtown shops and restaurants. He said it would cost several million dollars to renovate the hotel, which most recently was used as apartments for seniors. The hotel has been mostly vacant since January 2007.

"We only use about 10 percent of the building," Ott said. "The rest of it has been mothballed, so to speak, until we can start the project. TIF is an economic development tool necessary to make this project work."

Columbia dentist Lynn Miller, who approached the city about two years ago regarding a plan to build his "District Village" — a retail, office and residential development at Tenth and Locust streets — declined to comment on his TIF application.

The project would include a four-level building with underground parking, retail on the first level, and offices or apartments on the second and third floors, architect Stephen Bourgeois said in a previous Missourian report. Bourgeois was hired to do the preliminary design for the District Village.

Applications for TIF assistance will be reviewed by the TIF Commission, which will determine whether the projects demonstrate a public benefit and cannot be completed without city help. The Columbia City Council will be the final authority in approving or denying TIF applications.


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Michael Scott February 2, 2009 | 7:54 a.m.

Although I love the use of TIF money to help spur good economic development, there is no way we should ever approve the use of such funds on the Tiger Hotel. That is a project that will cost us tax money and bring in absolutely no additional revenue to the city. All they may do is to get people staying in their hotel vs another one in Columbia - no net gain here! Hopefully our TIF commission will realize what their role is and say no to that project.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr February 2, 2009 | 8:15 a.m.

How come the Historical Society does not go after grant money to restore that hotel?

Why must it be any city tax money at all?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 2, 2009 | 9:51 a.m.

Chuck, do you mean the State Historical Society? I don't think they are involved in renovation/preservation type of projects, more like the history of the state.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr February 2, 2009 | 11:53 a.m.

Most states have Historic Building Restoration Projects going on at any one time.

Well most states do but maybe Missouri is so kind of exception to the rule.

One would think they would being there are alot of historic locations located in the state.

(Report Comment)

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