A New Start for an Old Yard

by DOUG NADVORNICK & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & S & lt;/span & pokane elected and community leaders will turn ceremonial shovels of dirt Thursday afternoon at a ceremony marking the start of construction at the downtown Kendall Yards site on the north bank of the Spokane River. The city council this week approved a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district, which allows the city to divert up to three-fourths of the increased property taxes generated at Kendall Yards to reimburse Marshall Chesrown's Black Rock Development for its costs of building public infrastructure there.

City officials say the cost of laying pipes and building sidewalks on the 80-acre site could exceed $40 million during the 25-year life of the district. TIF allows the city and developer to share that cost. City officials estimate they could reimburse Chesrown as much as $25 million. The district (formally known as the West Quadrant TIF) also includes more than 200 additional acres in the West Central neighborhood and up the North Monroe Street corridor to the bottom of the hill. The city and county would share the 25 percent of higher property taxes not returned to the developer. They've each developed a list of neighborhood infrastructure improvements that could be funded with that money.

"Several of our neighbor cities have used TIF," said Tom Reese, Black Rock's leader for Kendall Yards and the city's former economic development advisor. "We've tried to use TIF in other places in Spokane, the South Perry district, the Broadway employment center. This is the textbook case."

While negotiations between city officials and representatives of Chesrown's company have proceeded for months, the wordsmithing of the final documents carried over into late Monday night.

"I know the council has been doing its due diligence on this," said Donna McKereghan, during a public hearing before the council's vote. "We're ready for this. You should do it tonight. The developer won't wait forever. Pass it tonight and then watch it like a hawk."

"My concern is how will we watch it like a hawk," answered Councilwoman Mary Verner, who insisted that before last night's vote the city first should determine how it would monitor the TIF district and who should decide how the city's share of revenue from it would be spent. "I really like this project and I want to support it, but we still have a little unfinished business."

Councilmembers agreed that one of them and a representative from each of the three neighborhoods affected by the TIF would be appointed to a committee to oversee the new district.

Every councilmember but Bob Apple voted for the TIF. Apple said he would have supported it if it was limited to the Kendall Yards site.