by Michael McKillip
For the better part of Midtown’s first decade, Tax Increment Financing (TIF) was a policy and advocacy initiative. It wasn’t until halfway through the first decade that the policy was approved.
Once neighborhood groups agreed to create a TIF district, Midtown Inc. focused its efforts on convincing City officials to undertake the necessary steps. In December 2011, the Metropolitan Development Commission approved the establishment of the North Midtown Economic Development Area—the necessary precursor for creation of a TIF district. At the time DMD planners had identified approximately $48 million of enhanced assessed value for the district.
Because of the collaborative planning efforts in the district, advocates for the Midtown TIF were able to present a unified development strategy that targeted six specific areas within the district that neighborhoods had identified as priorities for strategic investment. In January 2013, the City-County Council voted in favor of the Midtown TIF district, and in March of that year, the MDC cast its vote to establish the district.
Three mayors have been along for the journey of creating a TIF. The reason the Midtown TIF succeeds across mayoral administrations is because of its unique feature: the Midtown Economic Council (MEC). This group of neighborhood delegates maintains the focus on neighborhood plans while it reviews projects seeking TIF subsidy. The MEC provides another layer of scrutiny that insures adherence to local and regional economic development goals. Even though its recommendations to the City are nonbinding, the City has yet to approve an allocation from the TIF without a supportive recommendation from the MEC.
Because the MEC created a charter document, and we agreed where the development priorities are, we can serve as advocates to the City regardless of who the mayor is and ensure that TIF dollars are spent in the most catalytic and meaningful way.
We’ve seen the early public benefits of TIF through Tarkington Park and the Canal Esplanade projects. And in this short time, the TIF has begun to generate real cash value. We knew it would take years, but we’re only on year five of the TIF and a lot of projects are happening already.
By the end of 2018, the TIF balance should be upwards of $800,000. With more than $250 million in projects either under way or in the early stages of development, the benefit the TIF will have on infrastructure and community in the next five years in Midtown will be unprecedented for a TIF district outside of downtown Indianapolis.