Commonwealth Journal

News Live

April 27, 2013

Timing right to revitalize Downtown?


Somerset —

The proposed development area covers a wide area of Somerset, all the way down South Main Street to Dearl Whitaker Lane, coming around Cotter Avenue and north along Crawford Avenue, up College Street, west on Oak Street, and finally south all the way down Richardson Drive.
“The improvements would probably be for the entire downtown business district,” said Gosser. “First of all, there has to be infrastructure to improve the district, but infrastructure can be pretty broad. Say you’ve got a small shop and you’d like to put a bakery in there ... but you determine the problem is there isn’t enough parking, or updates to the streetscape are need, or you need a street to cut through to somewhere else. Those are the most obvious infrastructure solutions to downtown. We may decide a particular building is a problem to the whole block. If that building were enhanced, that would be an infrastructure improvement to the block. The City of Somerset might purchase a building, rehab it, then sell if off for a loss to improve (the area).”
The study notes that in order to make an improvement, local government must decide that the development area ins not reasonably expected to be developed without public assistance, that the benefits justify the costs, and that the area has not been growing through private enterprise, or if it has, there are special circumstances that require public assistance.
The plan, which Farris has called a “public-private” partnership, would seek to build on the current tax revenue generated by property in downtown Somerset, estimated at about $15,468 per year. The study projects a new incremental tax revenue haul of $1,482,362 in the first year, with $127,205 available for local participation and the rest for the state TIF program, $1,668,412 net after five years, and $39,831,633 net with over $3.4 million available for local participation after the full 20-year period. That’s after 20 percent of the nearly $50 million total over that time is retained by state and local authorities.

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