Plan commission approves midtown TIF

City officials are moving forward with plans to create a new Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district that could fund $20 million in improvements to the area surrounding the NexusPark project at FairOaks Mall.

The Columbus Plan Commission passed a resolution approving the Redevelopment Commission’s declaratory resolution and development plan for a Midtown Economic Development Area.

The proposed TIF district will allow the redevelopment commission to siphon off increasing property taxes within the area to fund improvements within that zone. Anneliese Williams with Barnes & Thornburg said the Midtown TIF follows along a “broad corridor” that includes the mall, Greenbelt Golf Course and Lincoln Park.

According to a memorandum from city/county Planning Director Jeff Bergman, redevelopment officials have indicated that the Midtown TIF will be used to fund “infrastructure and other improvements, specifically those associated with redevelopment of the former FairOaks Mall as the NexusPark community wellness facility.”

“The reason for the creation of the area is the expected development that will come as a result of the NexusPark project,” Williams said. “The goal is to create infill and to focus on sport and sport tourism and parks and recreation within this corridor.”

Director of Administration and Community Development Mary Ferdon said that the city hopes NexusPark will be an “economic driver” for the area that serves both tourists and local residents.

The master plan for that campus features several pieces of infrastructure, including landscaping, pedestrian improvements, bike trails and work on 25th Street.

“The creation of a TIF will help us down the road because all of this is going to have to be phased in,” Ferdon said. “And so the creation will help us pay for some of these infrastructures.”

She added that the planned infrastructure pieces also fit into parks and city master planning.

The redevelopment commission wrote in the area’s economic development plan that officials plan to capture TIF revenue from midtown “for the purpose of undertaking the projects that will help ensure a healthy business climate for the companies that locate within the area and promotes, enhances and grows amateur sports and sports tourism.”

Possible projects include, but are not limited to, work on streets, trails, utilities, site preparation and “the acquisition, demolition, rehabilitation, reconstruction and/or construction of buildings and other site improvements.”

The estimated cost of the projects described in the plan is approximately $20 million. The commission expects to fund these improvements using TIF revenue from midtown or through bonds or leases from the redevelopment district “payable from such tax increment revenues.”

The resolution to approve the redevelopment commission’s declaratory resolution and development plan passed 6-0.

Commission members Zack Ellison and Julie Abedian recused themselves from the discussion and vote. Commission attorney Alex Whitted advised they do so to avoid “the appearance of impropriety.”

This is due to both members’ connections with Columbus Regional Health, which is partnering with the city on the NexusPark project. Abedian is a CRH employee, and Ellison is on the CRH board of trustees.

The matter goes to Columbus City Council next, said Williams. If the council approves the new TIF district, it will then return to the redevelopment commission for a public hearing and confirmatory resolution. About 30 days after that, the new TIF will be created, city officials said.