Today's Question: Does The Tiger Hotel's renovation project qualify for tax-increment financing?

Monday, March 23, 2009 | 11:31 a.m. CDT; updated 6:18 p.m. CDT, Monday, March 23, 2009

Last week, we asked whether Trittenbach Development's proposed eight-story retail, office and residential building qualified for tax-increment financing.

Today, we're asking the same question of The Tiger Hotel, which also applied for a $1.7-million tax break, for its $4.4-million proposed renovation to create a “boutique hotel.”

Tax-increment financing freezes property taxes on undeveloped property and then invests the money that would have gone to paying property taxes back into the project.

A flier, passed out at the League of Women Voters City Council and School Board candidate forum last Thursday, pointed out that when tax-increment financing is given to a project, that project's property taxes don't get invested into Columbia Public Schools or the library, where property taxes usually go.

However for a project to qualify for TIF, it must meet the follow requirements:

  • Development projects must be in an area in need of conservation or an area deemed blighted.
  • Projects must create a substantial public benefit.
  • They must not be possible but for help from the city. (Read: developers could not afford to do the project without TIF, and therefore the city wouldn't be able to collect increased property taxes because the site would stay undeveloped.)

By applying for tax-increment financing — and paying the $10,000 application fee — The Tiger's owners John Ott, Dave Baugher and Al Germond say that their project does meet those three standards.

The District is part of an area in need of conservation, they say, and by bringing a high-end hotel downtown, more people will be coming to the heart of Columbia to spend money, Craig Van Matre said. Van Matre is the legal adviser for the project.

"If you drive around downtown, most businesses are hanging on by their fingernails," he said. Having a draw like a newly renovated historic hotel, he said, would bring more cash and jobs downtown.

Ott, like Trittenbach, also said the project isn't feasible without the help of tax-increment financing, citing the fact that the rooms have been “mothballed” since the closing of the senior living facility two years ago.

The flier, however, questioned whether The Tiger Hotel should be given more tax breaks, after receiving state history tax credits for the same property.

Do you think The Tiger Hotel's renovation project meets the qualifications for tax-increment financing?

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