Members of the newly created delegation charged with negotiating a tax incentive deal with CentrePointe developers say they want answers and clarity on the $250 million project at their first meeting on Thursday.
”I certainly hope to sit down and talk reasonably about the project,“ said Peggy Henson,11th district councilwoman.
Developers Dudley and Woodford Webb have proposed two development plans for CentrePointe — one with tax increment financing and one without.
”I want them to show us what the TIFless project looks like,“ she said. ”But if we partner on a TIF, I want to see what we get for our money.“
Tax increment financing is a way of borrowing against future tax revenues to help pay for infrastructure improvements on redevelopment projects.
The proposed project has stirred dissent with its plan to clear a prominent West Main Street block of historic structures to build a 35-story hotel, condominium, office and retail complex.
Several architects and downtown supporters have called the design unimaginative and the building out of scale with the city's mostly four- and five-story downtown buildings.
”The developers own the land, that's true,“ Henson said. ”It's private property, but this is our downtown. It belongs to all of us. What goes on that block affects every one of us and is a very serious matter.“
The delegation was formed last week with Mayor Jim Newberry and seven Urban County Council members to encourage developers with projects that qualify for tax increment financing to work with city leaders as they apply for funding.
Newberry will be joined on the committee by Vice Mayor Jim Gray, and council members Henson, Tom Blues, Julian Beard, Dick DeCamp, Jay McChord and David Stevens.
Gray said he will be listening for information about CentrePointe's financing.
”I want to hear the numbers,“ said Gray, president and CEO of Gray Construction. ”Numbers and community participation drive any good business deal, like what we saw last week with the Distillery District proposal.“
The proposal, a preliminary plan for an entertainment district on Manchester Street, was presented to the council last week. The developers, who seek community input on the project, say they must have TIF funds to make it work.
To answer council members' questions about CentrePointe will be The Webb Companies attorney Darby Turner and developer Woodford Webb. Dudley Webb is out of town, Turner said.
Fourth district councilman Julian Beard expressed concern about downtown sewer capacity.
”We're not going to get a lot done in this first meeting, to tell the truth,“ Beard said. ”It will take four, or five or six meetings.“
CentrePointe developers said recently that the complex, including the $18 million 600-space underground parking garage, will be built without any TIF funds.
”Originally the garage was to be have been part of the TIF package,“ Turner said. To eliminate public pressure to alter the building's design, developer Dudley Webb said CentrePointe can be built without TIF.
However, the Webbs are willing to let CentrePointe be included in a TIF district so the city could receive public amenities and infrastructure from TIF funding, like rehabilitating the old Fayette County Courthouse and build a parking garage under Phoenix Park. Turner said, ”If we do a large project like that, it's not going to happen without TIF.“