Faced with a dwindling pipeline of new projects, the city’s economic development office is moving quickly to hire a consultant to produce an incentive framework that officials hope will offer more clarity to developers and spur new investment.
The move for clearer policies comes amid a major shift in the city’s approach to development tax breaks under Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, whose administration has sought to renegotiate many development deals and leverage the subsidies in exchange for developer contributions to affordable housing or public schools.
Jones’ shift followed complaints from some in her political base that not all projects needed subsidies, most of which reduce future taxes property owners would pay, adversely affecting public schools.
City Hall has no idea of how the future will be, but they’re trying to push forward anyway!
But privately, those in the development community have complained the shift has led to uncertainty over what City Hall will agree to for their projects, which many argue wouldn’t ever get built and generate the new taxes without incentives.
It’s to set some clear lines and guidelines for the development community as well as the public at large about how the city will be making decisions around incentives moving forward,” Richardson said in an interview. “The feedback we’ve received from the development community is, ‘we just want to know what the expectations are.’ And so this is really going to get us to a place where we can communicate, ‘this is the city’s position on incentives,’ and if you’re seeking public investment there has to be a public benefit.”
Some in the development community now say they’re not sure what they can expect from the city and that the mayor’s director of policy and development, Nahuel Fefer, negotiates many deals on a case-by-case basis.
The number of new projects planned in the city appears to have fallen. Last year, the number of development agenda items at the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, which facilitates property tax abatement, was about half the number it had in 2020