Lexington's flirtation with TIFs — tax-increment financing districts — has produced more heartburn than happiness.
The Midland TIF approved Tuesday by the Urban County Council has the potential to restore that fragile relationship.
It proposes to unite and redevelop the eastern border of downtown along Midland Avenue from Vine to Third streets.
The TIF development would build on completed or planned improvements that have already begun to breathe new life into the area, including the recently completed Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden, the Charles Young Community Center and park, Thoroughbred Park, investments by the Community Ventures Foundation and the soon-to-be built LexPark deck at Main and Vine streets.
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Just outside the TIF boundaries are the Housing Authority's Equestrian Woods development, the redeveloped Lyric Theatre and the revitalized area along National Avenue.
The Herald-Leader building is across Midland Avenue from the TIF but not included in the district.
The proposed Midland TIF — it must still gain approval at the state level — could help the ongoing revitalization of Lexington's East End by providing additional housing, retail and restaurant options within walking distance for people who live and work in the East End.
The idea of TIF is that communities and developers who take on projects in blighted, underused areas should be able to recapture a portion of the new tax revenue that arises from the redevelopment to help offset some of their costs.
TIFs have helped revitalize blighted urban areas around the country for decades.
Although Lexington has five approved TIF districts, developers have not yet spent the required money to activate any of them. The 21C Museum Hotel project on Main Street is under construction and should be activated next year.
Most notable of the laggards, of course, is CentrePointe.
The CentrePointe TIF was first proposed in 2008 but has so far resulted only in destruction of a block of historic buildings that housed businesses and excavation of the site for a subterranean parking deck that is not yet under construction.
Other TIFs involve properties farther from Lexington's urban core (the original concept of TIFs), including the Summit development at Nicholasville Road and Man o' War Boulevard.
So, a successful Midland TIF could help revitalize not only an important area of the city but also Lexington's faith in this redevelopment tool.