Councilors Approve Reinvestment Zone For Downtown

Councilors Approve Reinvestment Zone For Downtown

Wichita Falls city officials are looking to revitalize downtown Wichita Falls. Tuesday morning city councilors voted to approve the establishment of a second generation tax increment financing (TIF) district.

The hope is that this tax zone will generate funds, over a 20 year period, to help with redevelopment and revitalization of downtown Wichita Falls.

"Obviously we all have an interest in the heart of our city," said Karen Montgomery-Gagne, Planning Administrator for the city of Wichita Falls. "Downtown is critical to any community."

The TIF reinvestment zone is 246 acres in downtown Wichita Falls. The zone is bounded on the north by Lincoln Street, the east by Michigan St., Lee St., and the BNSF Railroad. It's also bounded to the south by Kell, and Spur 447, and to the west by Lamar St., Lamar St., and Travis St.

The tax zone would use appraisal bases starting in 2014. Each year those values increase, that additional tax received would go directly into a separate fund. Residential homes within the zone will not be impacted.

"Each subsequent year it continues to increase," said Montgomery-Gagne. "So the difference between, say 2017 overall values within the TIF zone, and the base year of 2014, that difference is the added increment. That's what goes into the fund."

The TIF fund will also help maintain city streets, public infrastructures and sidewalks.

"One of the things that I think is really the most difficult component to all of this is trying to estimate and generate what potential increment you could have over a 20 year time frame," said Montgomery-Gagne.   "The sky is the limit."

Montgomery-Gagne said city officials are conservatively estimating a 1.5 percent increase over 20 years. They said it would come to an estimated $140,000 for redevelopment projects.

Roughly 60 to 70 percent of projects would be public focused, according to Montgomery-Gagne. While 30 to 40 percent would be private/public projects.

The funds in the TIF account will not provide sole funding for a project but will help with gap financing.

"When you've got a loan, you've got your capital, but you still have that small amount that's missing…that's where this funding comes in," said Montgomery-Gagne.

"I think we've captured, really, the area that needs to be included in the TIF and hopefully it will be as successful as the first one," said Councilor Michael Smith.

This tax program is not the first of its kind. Previous TIF projects have helped pave way for the MPEC, Coliseum, Ag center, as well as many other projects. All of those projects have helped grow Wichita Falls economically.

City officials say this growth in funding will not happen overnight. Money should start entering the TIF fund account by 2016, according to city officials.

The Reinvestment zone will expire in 2035. And by that time, city officials said the hope is that downtown Wichita Falls will be thriving.

Brittany Costello, Newschannel 6