Commission to consider agreement for mixed use facility at Sixth and Washington

Photo provided An artist’s rendition of a proposed mixed use apartments development on land near Cummins’ parking garage in downtown Columbus. Cummins has proposed hiring their own architect to design the exterior of the building.

The Columbus Redevelopment Commission is expected to vote on a project agreement for a mixed-use development in front of the Cummins, Inc parking garage that calls for a $5.8 million subsidy.

The meeting will be held in the Council Chambers of Columbus City Hall at 4 p.m. Monday.

Earlier this year, Flaherty & Collins, the developer of The Taylor, presented a proposal to create a mix of apartment units and commercial space in front of the parking garage, which is located along Washington Street between Sixth and Seventh streets. The proposed site is currently owned by Cummins, with Flaherty & Collins indicating that they plan to purchase it later on.

Redevelopment director Heather Pope told Columbus City Council in September that the project had stalled.

“Cummins was interested in modifying the exterior design,” Pope told The Republic. “And so since that time, they have — it’s my understanding — they have engaged an architect and this architect will be designing the exterior façade. And Flaherty & Collins, their architect and engineer will design the interior.”

The mixed use development is expected to be five stories and have about 52 to 56 apartment units, Pope said. Additionally, Flaherty & Collins has agreed to having the ground floor be commercial space only.

The total project cost is estimated at $15.5 million. The proposed resolution would authorize the use of $5.8 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds to cover a financing gap, with the expense being subject to approval by city council.

“The $5.8 million will be issued as a forgivable loan rather than a bond,” Pope said. “…We’ll just basically write a check for $5.8 million rather than taking on debt.”

She added that the city would pay the amount out of its Central TIF, with Flaherty & Collins paying it back over time through their property taxes.

As part of this repayment strategy, the redevelopment department plans to move forward with creating a new TIF at Sixth Street and Washington Street.

A TIF district is a mechanism that allows the redevelopment commission to retain increasing property taxes in a selected area to fund projects intended to benefit the community.

The redevelopment commission has already approved an initial resolution to create the new TIF and gotten the Columbus Plan Commission’s approval on its declaratory resolution and economic development plan supplement for the area.

The next step in the TIF creation process is to get approval from city council, with Pope expecting the item to be on their Dec. 5 agenda. The matter would then return to the redevelopment commission on Dec. 18 for a confirmatory resolution, she said.

She added that the proposed project agreement includes a “taxpayer guarantee” from Flaherty & Collins.

“They’ve committed to pay a certain amount of tax over the life of the TIF while they still own this property,” said Pope. “And it’ll transition, if they were to ever sell it at some point in the future, to the new property owner. But they have to pay a certain, a minimum tax. … If it doesn’t assess at what they think it will, they will still be required to pay the extra to get that minimum taxpayer agreement met.”

Some city officials, as well as members of the public, have expressed concerns about the project, such as the possible price point of the apartments, the proposed level of subsidy, and whether or not the project is the best use of the space.

The redevelopment commission previously tabled a resolution to pursue negotiations with Flaherty & Collins in June in a 3-2 vote. The project agreement was initially on the agenda for their August meeting but was later removed.

Other items on the agenda for Monday’s meeting include:

  • An update on the city’s housing study
  • A resolution to fund the riverfront project from the Central TIF district for a not-to-exceed amount of about $11.6 million
  • A resolution to engage the firms Zurbuch and EDCO as Construction Manager as Constructor for the riverfront project’s preconstruction phase for a not-to-exceed amount of $96,761.78