What Price “Progress”? City to Spend $5 Million-Plus, Will Own Nothing in Return

49898411_10210477906822513_4474808408591040512_nThis past Thursday the Charlestown Redevelopment Commission approved an agreement between the city and ARC Construction Management for the development of the Renaissance Project property between Main and High Streets on Market. During the meeting the rough details of the agreement were made public for the first time.

To summarize: 

  • Development has been divided into two phases. Phase One includes the area on Market between Main Street and Green Ally. Phase Two will consist of the remaining land between Green Ally and High Street. The present agreement involves only Phase One, but allows ARC to activate an option on Phase Two within one year. 
  • ARC will purchase the property for Phase One from the City of Charlestown for $1.00
  • ARC will build a structure that includes commercial space on the first level (one large or two small restaurants) and 40 “luxury” apartments above. Apartments will be 20% 1br/1bath and 80% 2br/2bath with beginning rental rates estimated at $850 per month (this will rise once occupancy fills). 
  • The total cost of the construction is estimated at a minimum of $4 Million (depending on material costs). 
  • The City of Charlestown will fund the construction through a bond. This bond will be repaid with property taxes owed on the development.
  • If ARC activates the option on the second phase within one year they can purchase the remaining land for $1.00.  

To review a summary of the full meeting or listen to the audio visit the link here: Redevelopment Commission 01/17/2019

What remains unclear after the meeting is the amount of money, if any, ARC Construction Management will invest in Charlestown.

What IS clear is that the Mayor is taking a significant risk on this project, and he’s relying on taxpayer money to do so.

image1-17According to tax records available at the Clark County Courthouse, the City of Charlestown paid $1,004,850.00 for the properties that comprise phase one and phase two of the Renaissance Project. (These properties had a total tax assessment value of $696,500.00 prior to purchase.) Following the purchase, the city paid to have the buildings demolished. Finally, the city paid ARC $6,000.00 for the first set of conceptual renderings, which had to be re-done after the Mayor failed to communicate clearly his vision for development and citizens called him out for presenting an option out of line with what he originally promised.  

Cities frequently offer tax incentives to entice firms that will bolster sagging economies or improve blighted areas. It’s terribly important, however, for city leaders to perform regular evaluation of these incentive programs to verify that they are working. Mayor Hall said in the meeting that he has used this kind of public-private partnership several times before, yet offered no clear evidence of its success

I am NOT opposed to development in Charlestown. Like all of you, I am thrilled about the idea of having more commercial, dining, and employment options in town.  

What worries me is that, in an effort to demonstrate its effectiveness in an election year, the current administration is giving away millions of dollars of property and then funding private development by siphoning off tax revenue for the next 20 years from our schools, library, and other taxing units.

I am excited about growth and development in Charlestown, but what good will such growth do us if the folks who work in the commercial space we build on the first floor cannot afford to live on the second? What good will it do us to welcome new families if our schools are underfunded and we cannot afford adequate fire protection for their homes? What good will growth be if we find ourselves bankrupt in the future? 

We need development. We need to let investors know we’re open for business. But we must move forward by putting Charlestown First.

***EDIT*** Following my release of the meeting summary and audio and the publication of this blog, Mayor Hall offered new information in an attempt to clarify the misleading details originally stated. For a link to all related meeting summaries, and the follow-up blog go here: Part II


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