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TIF task force to hire consultant

A city task force negotiating a tax increment financing proposal with the developers of CentrePointe has decided to hire a consultant who has experience with Kentucky TIF projects.

The city does not have any experience with TIF projects and needs some expert advice on this, said Vice Mayor Jim Gray, who proposed hiring a consultant. ”We need to do everything we can to ensure that, if we make a deal on a TIF, any TIF, that it's in the best interests of the taxpayers.“

Tax increment financing is a way of borrowing against future tax revenues to help pay for infrastructure improvements on redevelopment projects.

Besides deciding to hire a consultant, the Tax Increment Financing Task Force established a meeting schedule, including one session to solicit public input. The members also discussed potential public improvements that could be part of the development of CentrePointe, a proposed $250 million, 35-story hotel, condominium, retail and office complex slated to be built by developers Dudley and Woodford Webb on a full downtown block.

The Webbs have said that CentrePointe, including the $18 million 600-space underground parking garage, will be built without any tax increment financing.

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.

”Anything you can do to the surrounding properties benefits us,“ said Darby Turner, attorney for The Webb Companies. ”We want to give you the opportunity to lift, to improve downtown.“

During Thursday's first task force meeting, Woodford Webb said a public improvement project that could be included is building a parking garage under Phoenix Park and making other improvements, such as public art, above ground.

Other improvements suggested Thursday include rehabilitating the old courthouse, improving Cheapside Park, constructing a permanent facility for the Farmers Market and sewer work.

The task force plans to work up cost estimates and to prioritize the projects it would like to undertake.

City Law Commissioner Logan Askew and Paul Schoninger, the Urban County Council's research analyst, will present the task force with a list of one to three consulting candidates at Tuesday's meeting.

The candidates will not be connected to CentrePointe or one of the other two possible Lexington TIF projects — a downtown basketball arena to replace Rupp Arena and the Distillery District, a restaurant, entertainment, residential and business development along Manchester Street.

It's unclear how much the consultant would cost or where the money would come from. The city is operating under a tight fiscal year budget.

The work the task force does with CentrePointe can be used as a model on future TIF projects, Mayor Jim Newberry said.