Making sure the charrette isn’t a charade
At their first meeting since the downtown charrette was released a little over two weeks ago, the Downtown Leadership Council sat down to figure out the hardest part of any plan: implementing it.
The charrette is a planning document for downtown, born of an intense planning exercise overseen by professional consultants and downtown stakeholders. What emerged were specific recommendations to revitalize areas of the city’s core through redevelopment and infill. Two specific intersections were identified as priorities: Broadway and College, with an emphasis on the arts district to the north, and Providence and Broadway.
While the charrette itself is pretty explicit about its goals, priorities and implementation, there’s no requirement that the council has to act on them.
“Somewhere along the way, we need to offer a little more direction,” said DLC chair Randy Gray.
Gray went on to note to the board that it would “be in our best interest” to take a position on one of the plan’s top implementation strategies: establishing a tax increment financing district across a chunk of downtown. The charrette itself says creating an at-large TIF district is “crucial to the long term success of the plan.”
A TIF district would let a governing body direct public funds towards private projects that conform to the charrette. That could be very important in inducing reluctant property owners to develop or redevelop certain properties.
(Interestingly, in the city’s last application for Housing and Urban Development funds, approved this month, one of the items was a small request to fund a study. The study was for a city redevelopment authority, a quasi-public body that cities use to buy land or redevelop it. Many big cities have them, and there have been plenty of ‘issues’ as well as successes with the bodies. In terms of implementing the charrette, a redevelopment authority could be a perfect tool, though developing one here is a long way off.)
A TIF district is necessary, said Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine, in order to get funding to implement the charrette. The city often depends on private development coming forward in order to build roads and other infrastructure, he said. The charrette vision will face the same problem unless it creates some sort of public-private funding partnership (one of the charrette’s main recommendations).
“There needs to be a larger TIF district discussion in order to generate funds,” St. Romaine said.
The DLC may be just starting to try and get some traction on this proposal, but there seems little of it so far. Getting the council and the public on board with, and enthusiastic about, the charrette will take some effort.
Categories: Business, City Politics, Economy.