BIZTIPS - November 11, 2007

Biz Tips: Urban Renewal Lifts all Businesses
Sunday, Nov. 11, 2007
By Art Hill

The old saying "a rising tide lifts all boats" is a good analogy for urban renewal projects. Well planned and executed, they invest tax and borrowed dollars in specific areas of a community (usually "downtown") for a specific period of time. These dollars are spent on projects that increase property values and therefore increase tax revenues. Property improvements plus increased tax revenue benefit all citizens in the community, "lifting all boats."

It takes teams of people and lots of expert guidance to make this simple urban renewal concept work. Pendleton's current urban renewal program (some prefer "urban development") is an example. Several years ago, the City Council established the Pendleton Development Commission. The Commission oversaw the establishment of an Urban Renewal District with a plan for the collection and investment of taxes on property within that district.

The next steps were taken by the private sector – property owners, developers, investors. Their money is paying for architectural studies and plans, demolition where necessary, and both construction and re-construction. Examples can be found up and down Main Street and off Main…Hamley's, the buildings owned by the Gianotti's and Feves, Patel's Budget Inn, the Temple Hotel. The owners and developers of these properties are spending money and taking risk that their investments will give them a decent rate of return.

With the urban renewal process in place and property owners willing to invest, the next step is critical to the success of projects and the future of the community. It's the step that requires honest, open work by both public and private partners to evaluate projects and apply funds where they will do the most to increase value to the community.

Fortunately, projects like Pendleton's benefit from a combination of capable, responsible elected officials and experienced private property owners and developers. Stories about disagreements on project details might sell newspapers, but the real progress is made when tough decisions are based on public discussion and accurate analysis of return on investment to both developers and taxpayers.

Some projects return five to ten times the money invested. Constructing offices and apartments on the upper floors of a building and adding an elevator for handicap access could easilygrow the property tax value of the building to five times what it is today. Adding pedestrian corridors from downtown to a river walkway can raise the value of nearby stores and offices. Tax revenues increase, city services increase, and citizens benefit. It's not simple, and sometimes it's not smooth, but that's roughly how it works.

A final note ... none of this happens if we "leave it to somebody else." Pendleton Development Commission meetings and meetings of businesses in the Pendleton 2010 group are now well attended and good opportunities to see the process in action. And they're even getting attention from other communities with their own development projects. More information about Pendleton's program is available through the mayor's office http://www.pendleton.or.us/ Mayor_PhillipHouk.htm and from the Pendleton 2010 group at Pendleton2010@eoni.com.


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