The Ballard administration considers an area along Mass Avenue where a fire station, a credit union and low-income housing for seniors and disabled currently exists to be a "dead zone." They want to turn the one block stretch of property to a private developer to redevelop into a mixed use of residential and commercial property. The credit union and fire station will go, and one of the few green spaces along the avenue will be redeveloped to "maximize its potential." Essentially, their argument is that it is impossible for any new development to occur anywhere downtown unless the property is placed in a TIF district and the tax revenues from it are diverted to give tax subsidies to developers at the expense of the other taxing districts. The Star's editorial board is in total agreement despite how it often complains that schools and other essential services are grossly underfunded.
Development gaps along Mass Ave have long kept the Downtown shopping, restaurant, arts and entertainment district from reaching its full potential . . .
But the council's leadership would do well to remember that the city in many ways is at a disadvantage in competing for business with the suburbs. Further development of Mass Ave and other areas in and near Downtown is needed to attract new residents, who in turn will increase the city's income and sales tax revenues. Those taxes are even more important for cities now that Indiana has capped property tax rates.
For now, the city gets no tax revenue from the fire station, Barton Towers or the former bottling plant because the properties are held by branches of government. So, in the long term, any commercial or residential development that occurs because of TIF will help the city's finances.
It's important for Mass Ave, the rest of Downtown and the entire city that the proposed developments be allowed to move forward without further delay.I'm all for new development that is needed, but I think this argument that public subsidies have to be handed out every time someone wants to develop a piece of land downtown has just about been worn out. Downtown is one of the most vibrant areas of the city. Without any public subsidies, Mass Avenue has been completely transformed over the past couple of decades. This is a case where developers want to access public money to invest in an already successfully developed area. TIF districts were never intended to be used in such areas. The idea was to use TIF districts as an economic development tool to develop blighted areas. This is not a blighted area, and it does not need public subsidies to make development possible. The council should not take more tax revenues off the tax rolls and divert them to a slush fund controlled by the mayor. I hope the Democrats hold firm in their opposition to this expansion, but I doubt they will.