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Old Posted Jun 6, 2012, 7:51 PM
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Developing Downtown Without A Tax Deal

Three simple ideas for cities


June 6, 2012

Nathaniel M. Hood

Read More: http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2...or-cities.html

Quote:
It seems like you can’t get anything developed downtown without some sort of tax deal. It’s not difficult to find an example in Minneapolis-St. Paul: Pillsbury A-Mill, Izzy’s, Central Corridor development, Vikings Stadium, St. Paul Saints stadium, St. Paul’s Farmer’s Market Lofts, the Pentfield Lund’s, the American Academy of Neurology and that’s just scratching the surface. Even smaller towns, like Mankato (pop 40,000) can’t get a redevelopment project going without a little help.

- The new economy, which I argue we're transitioning into, will require multiple players who can produce small-scale, incremental development. This is how urbanism will be accomplished in the next 20 years, but it will probably need to occur outside of contemporary channels. This means creatively circumventing tradition lending methods, bypassing euclidean zoning and approval processes with out-dated bureaucratic methods and by avoiding the single developer mentality.

- We put too much emphasis on large buildings and having one developer come in and develop an entire city block. This is one of the reasons developers feel they may need a subsidy, because they are being asked to take on big initial financial risk. That’s precisely why they ask for subsidies and we shouldn’t necessarily blame developers for taking these subsidies. We should be blaming ourselves for giving it to them. I don’t fault a developer asking for $3.2 million when the public is actually willing to subsidize at a rate of $20,779 per parking space!

.....

1. Local Building Bank

The idea of a nation-wide infrastructure bank has been thrown around in the media, but it’s concentrated on large-scale projects like high-speed rail, large bridges and highway projects. What if it happened at a hyper-local level for small development projects. Let this ‘bank’ add up until you have enough money to develop. All the properties that accepted the special assessment would have an ownership stake in the new building and profit from it being leased or sold.....

1) Get local and/or downtown businesses together.

2) Map the empty and under-used properties in a particular area.

3) Create a development plan and get the city (or other entity) involved to add a small “special assessment” to property owners.

2. Land Value Taxation

One problem that Minneapolis and St. Paul have is that of open-surface parking lots in downtown. Besides our love of the automobile, a reason I believe that they still exists is because of our system of property taxation. We put a tremendous burden on the buildings themselves and their capital improvements. By modifying this element of our tax code, we are essentially incentivizing people to use their empty lots and encourage them to create better places. A few things would need to occur, including fair and accurate evaluations and possible modifications to land use regulations.....

3. Code-Free Zones

What if architects, builders and developers could bypass a codes? Would more be built? I’m not entirely sure, but I’m confident it would aid in the developing of small, incremental buildings. Again, instead of the government granting tax increment financing to a particular district, it could create a ‘Code-free zone.’ Now, there would need to be stipulations: it wouldn’t be “code free” per se, but more so a list of aims and objectives that would need to be reached. Aims and objectives would be things like good urban design, added street density, transit-accessibility, walkability and decent architecture.....

.....



Small barber shop in Excelsior, Minnesota. It’s kind of ugly, but it’s exactly what we want.

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Old Posted Jun 6, 2012, 8:46 PM
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Or be a city with high demand.
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Old Posted Jun 6, 2012, 9:57 PM
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But for those places that aren't that appealing they can look for other alternatives as opposed to an all or nothing approach, or a combination of the 2 to varying degrees on a case by case basis.
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Old Posted Jun 6, 2012, 10:24 PM
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"Code Free" zones would just become "highly subjective and therefore controversial" zones, which would become "protests leading to planning board meeting" zones, which would ultimately turn them into "gave up on the development" zones.
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