In exchange for an estimated $68-million tax abatement, the developer behind the Easton Town Center retail complex is promising to create 500 new jobs, 250 housing units and jumpstart a development fund for the nearby Linden neighborhood.
Alison Holm reports.
In a press conference Thursday Mayor Andrew Ginther and other leaders announced the details of the deal with the New York–based Georgetown Company, that will bring more jobs to the second-largest business district in the city, and provide seed money for one of the poorest neighborhoods. Ginther says the investment in Linden will start with formation of a remote tax increment financing district, or TIF.
“Georgetown will make an upfront 2.5 million dollar contribution within six months of creation of the TIF. A second contribution in the amount of 1.75 million dollars will be made before December 31rst, 2021. In addition, Georgetown will make a 1.5 million dollar investment to the city’s efforts in neighborhood renewal and revitalization in one of our city’s greatest neighborhoods.”
While the 4.25 million invested in the TIF will ultimately be returned to Georgetown, the $1.5 million investment, as well as in-kind services, will remain in Linden. Ginther sees it as a catalyst.
“These dollars are not the end of the investment. They are the down payment, or the equity. We will continue working to find other investors. Huntington Bank has already stepped up, committing $300 million for small business in Northland and Linden, as well as mortgage lending with waived closing costs. The investments through Georgetown do not happen in a vacuum; we have already brought significant investments to Linden.”
Ginther says the recently opened Linden Pre-K early childhood center, last year’s $27 million infrastructure investment, and a future pilot program using funds from the Smart Columbus city transportation grant are laying the groundwork for future improvements to be identified by residents, beginning with a neighborhood meeting in mid-March.
City council president Zach Klein says “private sector champions” have helped galvanize efforts in neighborhoods like Weinland Park and the Near East Side.
“What we’re seeing here today in Linden is a layering of identifying our private sector friends to help Linden accelerate their growth. The Ohio State University, Huntington Bank, United Way, Smart City money – and now to add Georgetown to that list, to make a difference in this neighborhood.”
Jennifer Adair, chair of the North Linden Area Commission says the lack of a big business partner in Linden has slowed the pace of revitalization.
“We have been working long and hard and have developed a lot of different partnerships, but this is really a missing puzzle piece – to bring in the resources, to improve the infrastructure and additional programs – it is that ‘shot in the arm’ that we really hope to be the catalyst to bring even more private and public partnerships together.”
The residential units, which are expected to spur the business development, will likely be built on vacant land at Morse and Stelzer Roads. The company is promising to deliver 250 of the jobs in the first five years of the deal, and faces penalties of 100-thousand dollars a year if it misses its targets. Georgetown, which helped develop the Easton complex in 1999, was a contributor to Ginther’s election campaign, but Ginther insists that was not a motivation to push for the abatement.