A tax plan for downtown revitalization

Robert Houk • Oct 16, 2018 at 5:41 PM

An attorney who specializes in tax increment financing told local government officials Tuesday that TIFs are a key economic development tool in revitalizing distressed downtowns across Tennessee.

“The use of TIFs for downtown redevelopment is pretty common,” Mark Mamantov, an attorney with the Knoxville law firm Bass, Berry and Sims, told a TIF workshop for county and municipal leaders from Carter, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington counties. “We found out in Knoxville that the downtown had died. It woud have stayed dead without TIFs.”

Mamantov, who was instrumental in helping write Tennessee’s TIF law, said downtown Knoxville has rebounded with the help of as many as 35 TIF projects in the area. He said the same is true for downtown Johnson City, where he helped the Johnson City Development Authority create a successful TIF district.

He said the TIF for downtown Johnson City will soon be amended to allow the JCDA to phase in additional parcels over a period of time.

He said TIF districts are now either being planned or will soon be implemented in many surrounding municipalities, including Elizabethton and Erwin. These TIF districts can be financed by a local industrial bond board, housing authority or development authority.

“A TIF district expands and preserves your retail base,” Mamantov told leaders at a workshop hosted by the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership held at the Millennium Center in Johnson City.

When a TIF district is established, participating businesses and developers have a portion of their property taxes allocated to pay for improvements they would otherwise have had to fund themselves, such as infrastructure extensions, parking lot expansions and stormwater improvements.

Projects eligible for a TIF include most manufacturing, commercial, retail and multi-family developments. Single-family housing is generally ineligible for a TIF.

Mamantov said many communities have created TIF districts for hotel/motel developments. He said such projects are ideal for rural areas like Unicoi County that have a number of interstate highway exits.

He said retail is also a popular use for TIFs. One such $350,000 project was recently announced in Sumner County for Tractor Supply Co.

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