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Thread: Impact of TIF districts on downtown redevelopment

  1. #1
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    Impact of TIF districts on downtown redevelopment

    Hello,

    I am new here and I am interested in reducing urban sprawl. It seems to be the case that misuse of TIF districts in many areas has created an environment which fuels over-development of retail in areas which are already saturated. If this is the case, what can be done with regard to convincing state and other local bodies to reform and restructure their rules regarding the creation of TIF districts? Is this an issue that can be taken up at the federal level?

    In a slightly unrelated vein, I'd like to ask about Main Street redevelopment ideas. I was in Winchester Virginia today and I was impressed with the beauty and walkability of the downtown. The area is historically and culturally rich (with places like the tomb of Lord Fairfax from the 18th century, several museums preserving the area's civil war and colonial heritage and of course, the town has the distinction of being home to the country legend Patsy Cline). Further adding to the town's attractiveness in my view, is the pedestrian mall. However, one thing was on my mind as I walked around the streets that were lined with 18th century buildings: the almost total lack of people on a Tuesday afternoon. Most of the people I saw were driving through town towards the new big-box developments along the highway.

    The question here is, how can towns like this seize hold of and cultivate their cultural and architectural capital? I personally think that creating incentives for downtown necessity retail may be one way. The stores along the pedestrian mall were either gift stores or restaurants. There were a few clothing stores. There were no hardware stores or food markets. There were no pharmacies. These are the things that need to be located downtown. What other ideas are out there?

    -El.

    Moderator note:
    (Gedunker) I modified the thread title to be a little more specific about the thread topic. Thanks and carry on!
    Last edited by Gedunker; 18 Mar 2009 at 11:57 AM.

  2. #2
    You outlined some problems, but you might want to consider that some of these issues separately. Too much retail can be a problem anywhere, an economic development tool can be used in many if not most places, it is very difficult to limit them geographically.

    Usually, if the stores are open, they are getting customers. Few retail outlets stay open for long if they are not, no matter what subsidies they receive.

  3. #3
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by erelion12 View post
    the almost total lack of people on a Tuesday afternoon. Most of the people I saw were driving through town towards the new big-box developments along the highway.

    ...There were no hardware stores or food markets. There were no pharmacies. These are the things that need to be located downtown. What other ideas are out there?

    -El.
    Subsidizing new stores is a nice idea. But will people shop at them even though the prices are lower at bigbox stores? Sure, we know that little business areas that have nice landscaping make people come, but how many of these can an area support?

    That is: you need customers at these subsidized stores else they will close and the next planner will wonder why these stores aren't there and want to subsidize food markets. And so on. In my view until the bigbox model becomes obsolete, you are observing the consequences of this particular business model. My view.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    1. The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has done some nice analysis of the impact of economic development incentives, and took on the "beggar thy neighbor" debate several years ago. Some of this work may still have relevance for you. The issue in many places is that the developers and chains will pit neighboring communities against each other. Either provide an incentive or they will build in the adjoining community instead. There needs to be a real and enforceable compact within metropolitan areas to put an end to this, or state legislation needs to be rewritten. Many TIF statutes originally limited their use to redevelopment, then expanded to greenfield development over the years. Perhaps it is time to go back. Failing TIFs, as a result of falling property values and declining sales, may be the inducement needed to rewrite the laws.

    2. For necessity items to be sold in a Main Street setting, certain conditions must apply:
    - There must be a sufficiently large population in a pedestrian-oriented setting, and/or
    - downtown sites must offer the same convenience (accessibility, site design, parking, etc.) as strip commercial settings, and/or
    - in a small community, there is not land available on the outskirts to allow strip commercial development.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan Staley View post
    Subsidizing new stores is a nice idea. But will people shop at them even though the prices are lower at bigbox stores?
    This is a widely accepted view but it is not necessarily accurate, IMHO. Read Stacy Mitchell's book Big-Box Swindle or the work of Michael Shuman. People have to be educated about the benefits of supporting local businesses. Many communities have started to initiate "buy local" campaigns to advocate for independent retail and service businesses.

    I would also add that there needs to be a return to the use of our traditional downtowns as centers of community life. A downtown cannot function merely as a isolated retail district. It needs to support and be supported by a multiplicity of uses, with government centers, recreational facilities, libraries, housing, and so on included in the mix.

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