Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Colorado Springs' southwest downtown needs an expensive scrub

Posted By on Wed, Mar 7, 2018 at 4:27 PM

click to enlarge Looking northeast, this 5.6 acres lies southwest of the downtown area and is estimated to carry a $4.4 million cleanup cost associated with coal tar left from a coal gasification plant that operated there more than 100 years ago. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Looking northeast, this 5.6 acres lies southwest of the downtown area and is estimated to carry a $4.4 million cleanup cost associated with coal tar left from a coal gasification plant that operated there more than 100 years ago.

Will a key portion of the southwest downtown area rise again? That's the question we explore in this week's Independent in a story about city-owned contaminated land near America the Beautiful Park on Cimino Drive.

One question that arises is whether tax increment financing (TIF) could be applied toward the mitigation effort, which is estimated to cost $4.4 million.

TIF is a commonly used financing tool for public infrastructure in urban renewal areas whereby the increment in sales and property tax revenues created by development in those areas is set aside for streets, utilities and other public needs to develop a viable commercial district.

So we asked the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority's executive director Jariah Walker that question.

The short answer is, yes, TIF could be used for cleanup.

"The URA board would review any application with specific costs and needs for the expected TIF and then ultimately put it to city council for final approval," Walker says in an email. "The quick answer to your question is that TIF can be used for many different public improvements which can include abatement."

But he also says the URA board has not been presented with a plan detailing any specifics. If such a request arises, he adds, "This would be handled through an application process that would authorize a conditions study and financial analysis on the presented project(s)."

But one problem with seeking a TIF at this stage of the game is that most of the 25-year time limit for urban renewal areas has expired, after the 100-acre area was declared the Southwest Downtown Urban Renewal Area in 2001. That means if a TIF were allowed tomorrow, only 13 years would be left during which TIF money could be used to fund public facilities, or a cleanup. That may not be enough to cover the costs.

Nothing prevents the master developer, Nor'wood Development Group, from seeking a new urban renewal designation, however, Walker acknowledged.

We've contacted Nor'wood President Chris Jenkins and will circle back if and when we hear from him.

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