LEXINGTON, Ky. — University of Kentucky officials are hoping that a tax break will spur a new wave of development at the school’s Coldstream Research Park, which still has vast empty spaces.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports the Lexington council has approved the tax break. It would let developers keep up to $32 million over 20 years for building on portions of the park.

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council voted unanimously Thursday to approve the tax increment financing district. It would let developers use new taxes generated by the project to repay themselves for public infrastructure improvements associated with the project, such as roads, sidewalks, water and sewer lines, shared meeting spaces and parks.

The proposal now goes to the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority, which oversees TIF projects involving the state, for its approval.

The state has final say on the district and will do its own analysis to determine if the project is financially viable before granting the incentive.

UK has said it plans to let private developers build apartments and office space on portions of the 735-acre research park that are included in the new district. Most of the land in the new district has not yet been developed.

Under the proposal, developers could receive up to $32 million over 20 years from the city and state for infrastructure improvements. That’s roughly $16 million in city tax refunds and $16 million in state tax refunds.

The proposed TIF district does not include a 50-acre section of the research park that UK has agreed to sell to potential companies as part of a larger land swap with the city.

In addition to selling the 50 acres, UK has agreed to give the city 200 acres between Interstates 75 and 64 and Georgetown Road in exchange for control of about 13 acres of city streets and alleys in and around campus.

The city will use the 200 acres for a new business or industrial park.

A memorandum of understanding between the university and the city about the land swap has not yet been finalized.

Last year, the city approved changes that would allow UK to use as much as 15 percent of its research park for retail developments, apartments or town houses. The changes also allow for more density by requiring less green space around buildings and increasing maximum building heights.

UK officials have said that adding residential units will allow it to attract more businesses to the research park, which still has vast empty spaces nearly 30 years after it was first proposed. Isolated industrial and research parks are outdated because people want to live, work and shop in the same area, UK officials have said.

“Everything we’ve been doing in the past couple of years is to accelerate the growth of Coldstream,” said George Ward, executive director of the research park.


Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com