Multi-use TIF project under fire; Tiger Hotel a ‘no brainer’

Projects applying for public financing came under scrutiny at today’s Tax Increment Financing Commission meeting.

The developers — one group proposing to restore the Tiger Hotel to its former glory as a boutique hotel and the other proposing an eight-story residential-retail-office building — applied for the tax break in late January, and this is the first meeting where commission members were able to critique them.

The urban-style building proposed for the corner of Tenth and Locust streets came under fire by some commission members.

“I guess my first question is, why?” asked Ernie Wren III, one of Boone County’s appointees to the commission. “When you’re looking at The Tiger hotel you’re talking about renovating a historic structure. With this project, you’re just razing lots and building commercial and residential space.”

Wren’s point was that any developer could pick a commercial lot and create a plan for a grand building comparable to the Odle brothers’ project. He asked: What makes this one worth the public financing?

The project’s attorney Wesley Fields said the development “fits well within the policy the city has established for considering and approving tax-increment financing,” even more so than The Tiger.

The money acquired through TIF would only be used toward gaining ownership of blighted property or for bringing the current infrastructure (such as sidewalks and utilities) up to date, Fields said.

Wren also brought up concerns about the lack of parking spots for those living in the Odles’ building. Their current plan allows for 11 parking spots to be used primarily for those working in the building.

Nathan Odle, representing Trittenbach Development, said the city-owned parking garage across an alley from the proposed site could hold almost two cars per apartment on its busiest days.

Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine echoed Odle saying that after a meeting with the city’s Public Works Department they would have enough spaces in that garage, located at the corner of Tenth and Cherry streets.

Although some commission members voiced their concerned about the projects, others said they were excited.

“I think this is the kind of project that makes sense,” commission member Andrew Beverley said. “I think it’s an easy decision from my perspective as a taxpayer and a stakeholder downtown.

“There’s a reason why we haven’t seen any construction cranes downtown — other than for parking structures or City Hall,” he added, explaining that this type of project is nearly impossible without public financing, even in times when the economy is thriving.

Commission members had less concerns about The Tiger’s developer’s application.

“Isn’t The Tiger a no brainer?” Beverley asked his fellow commission member Bruce Walker.

“Yeah,” Walker agreed.

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