'Tax Increment Financing' May Be Key to Bricktown's Future

Article excerpt

A revenue-generating mechanism called "tax increment financing" could be a key to the continued development of Oklahoma City's Bricktown area, a group of urban planners learned Monday.

State Sen. David Herbert, D-Midwest City, told the Oklahoma chapter of the American Planning Association that increment tax financing is "painless financing," using revenues generated by increased property values in developing areas such as Bricktown.

The planners met for lunch at Bricktown's Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant, 101 E. Sheridan Ave.

"Oklahoma needs, especially with our lack of capital, programs that generate construction, redevelopment, Downtown and Main Street projects," said Herbert, a former mayor of Midwest City who said he has experienced first-hand many of the obstacles to urban redevelopment. "With tax increment financing, local people can get involved without using the giant, state-wide bond issue system that tends to make more money for the people who put them together than for the projects they are supposed to benefit."

Larry Hopper, an associate planner for the City of Oklahoma City and president of the American Planning Association's Oklahoma chapter, said tax increment financing enables a community to retain the new ad valorem tax revenues generated by escalating property values, and put some of the money back into the area that generated the increase.

The program could benefit an area such as Bricktown for a designated period of time, "say five or seven years," Hopper said, without decreasing funding for schools or other public entities reliant on property taxes.

A tax increment financing bill has passed the state House of Representatives, Herbert said, but he said lawmakers are more strongly considering a Constitutional amendment which would require a statewide vote.

What started on the 100 block of E. Sheridan with the redevelopment of the Glass Co., Confectionary and Baden buildings, and continued across the street with the conversion of the Awalt Building into a Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant, has resulted in increased interest and activity in the Bricktown real estate market, said Bill Mee, leasing manager for Don A. …

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