Local Revitalization Funds for Tacoma

An ordinance adopted by the City Council this week would allow the City of Tacoma to access a pot of up to $12.5 million in funds for public infrastructure improvements associated with private development. 

The money comes with some strings attached, but give Tacoma a way to keep a bit more of its tax dollars local. The funds come through the Local Revitalization Financing Program, a State program that allows the city to essentially retain a portion of the state sales tax paid in Tacoma for local use.

Following an unsuccessful bid to retain Russell investments back in 2008, the City of Tacoma was included as a demonstration project for the State’s new Local Revitalization Financing program. This program returns a portion of state sales tax dollars raised to the municipality where they were generated. 

Through this program, Tacoma is allowed to keep a portion of the 6.5% sales tax paid locally that ordinarily goes to the state, up to $500,000 annually for 25 years, or $12.5 million total. The funds must be used for public infrastructure associated with an increase in private investment and employment.

That's one of the strings attached: funds received through this program must be used in association with a project that includes private investment and job creation. There are other strings too: funds obtained through this program must be invested in public infrastructure, they must be used in a designated revitalization area, and there must be a one-to-one local/federal match for the state contribution.

The City created a 660-acre “revitalization area” downtown to be the receiving area for the funds. The area is bounded by Tacoma Avenue and the Foss Waterway on the west and east, and the Stadium District, and essentially I-5 on the north and south (see map).

The City has also met and exceeded the match requirement, investing $54.6 million in the area since 2010.

Unfortunately, another original requirement was that the City had to bond for the public improvements to be funded, and Tacoma’s financial situation coming out of the recession wasn’t great. So the City has had insufficient debt capacity to take advantage of the program. That is, until the State legislature amended the rules in 2015, adding flexibility that gives Tacoma a way to access the funds on either an annual basis.

Then in March the State passed new legislation putting Tacoma in a use-it-or-lose-it situation in which if we don’t use the funds, they will be forfeited and passed on to those who will. The adoption of this week's ordinance allows the City to access those funds.

Now that Tacoma has access to the funds, the question is how they will be used. They have to be used for infrastructure improvements associated with an increase in private investment and employment within the Revitalization Area. Eligible uses include: 

  • Street, road, bridge and rail construction and maintenance;
  • Water and sewer system construction and improvements;
  • Sidewalks, streetlights, landscaping and streetscaping;
  • Parking, terminal and dock facilities;
  • Park and ride facilities of a transit authority;
  • Park facilities, recreational areas and environmental remediation;
  • Storm water and drainage management systems; and
  • Electric, gas, fiber and other utility infrastructure.

An example given of how this could work was the construction of a public, City-owned parking garage using the State funds, with a privately-funded office building above the parking garage. In terms of where the funds are actually invested, the City will be looking for the biggest bang for the citizens’ buck in terms of economic development and job creation.

So, those are the rules - what would you like to see Tacoma build with these funds?


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Comments

Jesse

- Park Place North. 
- Parking garage underground at the Haub site so future building pencils out.
- Jefferson Avenue and 21st Street LID

April 21, 2016 at 9:29 am / Reply / Quote and reply

2 | 1

Jim K

Run light rail up Jefferson from Broadway to 25rh. Then turn up 25th to j Street to connect to the light rail planned to come through hilltop.

This would improve the Ability to market the private development of the Tacoma Town Center and development of the Hilltop business district.

April 21, 2016 at 4:52 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

2 | 1

LeftyBender

One of the biggest challenges for light rail is the slope of the road. Twenty fifth street is far to steep for the light rail to climb.  That is why the light rail need to go up Stadium Way and then Division in order to get to MLK.  The roads are just to steep for travel.  I still question the light rail traveling up Stadium Way, especially in the rain.  When the rails are wet it is more difficult for the light rail to stop.  It may be more of a roller coaster than a form of transportation.

April 22, 2016 at 6:35 am / Reply / Quote and reply

4 | 1

Bryan Jackson

Maybe they can fix all the lead pipes.

April 22, 2016 at 10:09 am / Reply / Quote and reply

8 | 0

Engineer

I’m a little surprised and disappointed that, given all of the improvements and upgrades that have already taken place on Pacific Ave and Dock St, that the city didn’t extend the boundary further west to include Hilltop, where we’ll soon be building light rail.

April 22, 2016 at 11:48 am / Reply / Quote and reply

4 | 0

Engineer

My proposal:  City will build new infrastructure (sidewalk, curbs, new water & sewer, etc) for any development projects that come on board within the zone.  Frontage improvements are often a deal-breaker for urban redevelopment.  Cut this out of the equation for developers to encourage urban infill.

April 22, 2016 at 11:52 am / Reply / Quote and reply

4 | 0

Tim Smith

Wonder why we picked downtown and not say South Tacoma? Build the 16 Railroad yards truck route to open the North Access Road per the agreements between the City and BNSF. A   future “North Access Road” would connect South Tacoma to 157 acres of developable property owned by BNSF. That connection would be over nearly two acres of City-owned land south of South 35th and east of Windom Avenue, next to TPU’s Water Operations Center. The connection would open up the nearly 160 acres to development for large manufacturing and industrial uses, removing a barrier to development. BNSF would build the road within the next eight years, paying TPU $8,000 per year while the road is being built. The railroad would also either donate an almost six-acre piece of land for Tacoma Water’s use, or would pay Tacoma Water almost $400,000 for the use of the land.

April 23, 2016 at 1:33 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

4 | 0

Me

I don’t know why “16 railroad yards” appeared in the above posting.

April 23, 2016 at 1:35 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

1 | 1

DeeBee Cooper

The primary problem with access to the former railroad yards is suitable access from the north for sure. This entire area is just the perfect mix for a combined 157 acre “green industry park and business zone” with a large historic business district, Sounder access, and room nearby in Edison, Madrona, WestMall, for housing and living. People could walk and bike to the “Green Zone” for work, A fresher slate deeply needing this type of infusion.

I wonder…how many millions have we poured into the downtown “property/sales tax free /government/non-profit zone” over the years? Tear up brand new sidewalks and make more brand new sidewalks.

April 24, 2016 at 4:50 am / Reply / Quote and reply

3 | 0

altered chords

DeeBee - we did all that so we could have a world class “International Financial Services District”.  Russell is very sad that they left now that we have new sidewalks.

April 27, 2016 at 12:34 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Sally

Use this money to benefit all Tacoma residence by improving a bicycle lane or parking do not use this money to improve the wealthiest homes in Tacoma by burying elec lines!!

April 23, 2016 at 4:21 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

3 | 1

LeftyBender

Lets do all of it!  Why not? you can’t repo a bike lane or parking, let alone buried power lines.

April 23, 2016 at 6:15 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

2 | 0

JDHasty

That giant sucking sound you hear is additional money being poured down the insatiable money pit known as the Downtown Redevelopment Zone.

In the early 1990’s we residents were assured by the Visualize Tacoma Jackassery that if the public provided the initial funding that before long private development and new residents would come flocking and herding in and this area would generate a “surplus” of tax revenues that would be used to rebuild our infrastructure and “more than make up for” increased deterioration caused by “deferred maintenance.”  That claim was demonstrably false, this latest bullshit scheme will yield more of the same.

April 25, 2016 at 8:33 am / Reply / Quote and reply

2 | 2

Jesse

But how do you REALLY feel?

April 25, 2016 at 1:29 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

1 | 1

LeftyBender

Captain positive strikes again!

April 25, 2016 at 2:54 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

1 | 1

JDHasty

This article documents that there is no demand for the Light Rail.  If it cost anything out of pocket to ride it, a large percentage of the current ridership will just omit the trip or walk where they are going instead.  Anti-automobile enthusiasts always claim to want to discourage what they call “induced trips.”  Let’s have some consistency.

“Sound Transit has estimated it would lose up to 177,000 riders a year at the base fare of $1. About 1 million people have ridden the train annually since 2012, although ridership fell slightly at the end of 2015 and the beginning of this year, according to Sound Transit records.

Charging a $2 fare could generate upwards of $484,000 over costs annually, but ridership is projected to fall by about 211,000, according to Sound Transit records.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/traffic/article74072197.html#storylink=cpy

April 27, 2016 at 10:18 am / Reply / Quote and reply

2 | 2

Jesse

I actually sorta agree with you for once.  Light rail up the I-5 corridor is stupid because the Feds will probably want to do high speed rail on the same corridor - hopefully before the supposed 2033 completion date for light rail to Tacoma from Fed-Way. 
I’d rather see a city-wide streetcar system connecting the main business districts to downtown.  At least that would be cheaper per mile, sections could be completed within my lifetime (as I pay for them), and it wouldn’t end up as a redundant and all-elevated financial boondoggle.  I mean, if we’re talking about rail…

April 27, 2016 at 3:29 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

2 | 1

JDHasty

Freeloaders to continue to freeload and sponge indefinitely off the taxpaying citizens that live outside of the “Downtown Redevelopment District.” 

http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/article74562737.html

April 29, 2016 at 8:52 am / Reply / Quote and reply

2 | 2

RA

We need more parking to accommodate the existing and already proposed businesses in this area.  This area is notorious for its lack of parking and many potential customers avoid it for that reason.

May 9, 2016 at 8:47 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

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