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Dallas Boosting Development With Tax Increment Financing

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Dallas City Hall thinks taxpayer financing for property owners near the American Airlines Center will be a good deal---not just for those property owners, but for taxpayers and for small businesses across the Trinity River.

They're called TIFs...Tax Increment Financing.  The AAC is one that worked. When its TIF was created in 1998, the arena and surrounding development were just a dream, but tax money put back into the area helped entice new development in what is now Victory.

With housing and hotels and restaurants a part of the landscape--and its TIF about to expire---some at city hall would like the see the arena TIF extended with a new purpose: to finance a parking garage.  "Putting a parking garage liberates more land to be developed within Victory and that generates tax increments," said Karl Kavitkovsky, Dallas' Economic Development Director.   To sweeten the deal, the new TIF would also drop seed money on new businesses in the Riverfront and West Dallas neighborhoods.

The city wants West Dallas to become the hot new area following the opening of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.

TIFs have worked elsewhere: a TIF for Uptown area has sparked development downtown along Main and Commerce Streets. It's even lured private donations for nearly half of the Woodall Rodgers Deck Park. "I support the project wholeheartedly," councilman Tennell Atkins told his committee, "I've got no problem supporting the project. I think it's a great idea for the city."

Some of Atkins' counterparts have problems with it. Ann Margolin worries there are no firm numbers; the minimum tax break seems to be $90 million through 2028.   She adds there's more, "whether the owners of the private property in Victory are getting too good a deal."  She tells CBS 11  that on the conceptual level it makes sense, but quickly adds, "I'm trying to dig down into the weeds to see if it really DOES make sense in this case."

People who actually work in Victory say its problems go beyond expensive parking garage prices.  "If it's (parking) not free at least minimal, because a lot of these businesses would be able to help if they didn't have to worry about higher pricing on parking," said Ray Nungaray, who works in the area.

Liz Tramer worries about developers getting the proverbial cart before the horse.  "And I think what we need to do is have something open here that attracts people and draws the crowd and then worry about parking; but we need to get more traffic down here."

Another argument is that development in Victory stalled along with the recession.

Monday's presentation was a first step; there'll be a public hearing next month. It could be August before anything is finalized.

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