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Proposed Statesboro TAD reaches way beyond South Main
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Statesboro's proposed Tax Allocation District is not restricted to South Main Street.

The district, which will be up for approval Dec. 16 before Statesboro City Council, extends tendrils along rights of way to now-vacant Gentilly Square storefronts, the bypass at U.S. Highway 301 South and other areas.

Roots might be a better metaphor, as the purpose is to draw nourishment from future tax growth in these outlying areas. South Main Street — Highway 301 from Georgia Southern University to the Bulloch County Courthouse — remains the trunk of the TAD redevelopment plan. But as local planners learned from consultants from Bleakly Advisory Group, the South Main corridor alone did not have enough growth potential to fund significant public projects.

"The way that these TADs work, from what I'm understanding and what I'm learning, is that you have to have big projects," said Allen Muldrew, the executive director of the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority. "You've got to have areas that have real, significant redevelopment potential."

The district boundaries that Muldrew and Bleakly Senior Consultant Jonathan Gelber presented last week for City Council's consideration encompass 630 parcels measuring a total of 899 acres. Snaring an estimated 5.95 percent, by value, of Statesboro's taxable real estate, this stays within the statewide cap of 10 percent of any city or county's tax base that can be placed in TADs.

A majority of Statesboro voters in a Nov. 4 referendum approved the city's use of the Redevelopment Powers Law. So City Council can now create one or multiple districts, up to the 10 percent cap.

A Tax Allocation District does not increase tax rates. Instead, it establishes a "snapshot" value of all taxable real estate in the district before its first year. After that, taxes on that base value continue to go to the local government's general fund. But, for as long as the district exists, property tax revenue from new construction or increasing property values goes into a special TAD fund for redevelopment projects in the district.

The draft plan states the projected life of the district as 25 years. If City Council approves the plan, the snapshot date will be Dec. 31, 2014, meaning the TAD fund will gain any new revenue from growth within the district in 2015 and beyond.

Muldrew explained in an interview that local people involved in the planning learned from the Bleakly group, hired by the DSDA, that the district could narrowly follow highways and streets to tie in other areas.

So without taking in the developed residential area south of Tillman Street, for example, the district reaches along Highway 301 South to encompass The Hamptons apartments and condominiums, still under development this year. South from there, it takes in more than 12 acres, eyed for shopping center development, on the northwest quadrant of Veterans Memorial Parkway, also known as the bypass.

7 'Catalyst Projects'

To the east of the central South Main corridor, the district reaches out along Brannen Street to take in both the old Sallie Zetterower Elementary School campus and the Gentilly Square shopping center, along with an adjacent area.

The shopping center's owners, Hull Storey Gibson Companies, were consulted and support its inclusion, believing that the Gentilly area would benefit from redevelopment on South Main, Muldrew said. The old school is for sale and could become private property.
Pages 12-15 of the 48-page TAD Redevelopment Plan draft list the "Central-Brannen Mixed-Use," "East Brannen Mixed-Use," and "Bypass Commercial" areas among seven "catalyst project" areas envisioned as potentially generating significant development. Two commercial catalyst areas are directly identified with South Main, on its east and west sides.

A "Gordon Street Senior Residential" and a "Bruce Drive Residential" catalyst area are also suggested. The seven catalyst projects and merely visions for things that could happen, as the plan makes clear.

"These projects are illustrative, for the purposes of modeling feasible redevelopment potential in the redevelopment area only, and they do not reflect an endorsement or recommendation of any specific redevelopment project ...," states page 12.

Similarly, the redevelopment plan's projection that the TAD fund could pay for $10.7 million in public projects within the district is not a certainty. Gelber said this is "bonding potential," with financing through bonds becoming a reality only after real revenue growth is seen, and with the projects to be built over 10-20 years.

All of the revenue and cost numbers are only projections, he emphasized in an interview.

"We look at how much development could reasonably and feasibly occur in the area and how much potential tax revenue that would generate for the TAD fund," Gelber said.

The 'Blue Mile'

The goal of Statesboro's first TAD, the plan states, is "to encourage the private redevelopment of outmoded, highway-oriented commercial development into pedestrian friendly, mixed-use centers to achieve the vision set forth in the 2011 Statesboro Downtown Master Plan and 2014 Comprehensive Plan."

Exactly what public projects, such as sidewalks, lighting and landscaping, could be applied to turn South Main Street into the envisioned "Blue Mile" remain to be decided. TAD revenue can also fund public infrastructure designed to attract specific private development.

Muldrew wants to seek further consulting help for a local TAD advisory committee.

"With the first dollars that would come in, I think the first thing that we would suggest doing is a solid study on the Blue Mile, getting qualified people to tell us what to do and how to do it, and give us a solid game plan," he said.

Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.


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