Knox leaders support TIF proposal for South Baptist site

Knox leaders support TIF proposal for South Baptist redevelopment site

Artist's rendering of the proposed Baptist Hospital site (source: City of Knoxville) Artist's rendering of the proposed Baptist Hospital site (source: City of Knoxville)

6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knoxville and Knox County are proposing a tax-incentive package to help fund the redevelopment effort along the city's south waterfront.

The $165 million plan will transform the former Baptist Hospital site along Knoxville's South Waterfront into luxury apartments, student housing, a hotel and restaurant, as well as retail and office space. Demolition and construction are scheduled to begin in early 2014.

City and county leaders say the proposal is a catalyst for the area, and a key component is making private dollars available to the project's developer Blanchard & Calhoun Commercial.

"This development is about large as a combination of the many smaller developments that have occurred downtown in the last decade, it's that large of a project," said Bob Whetsel, director of redevelopment for the City of Knoxville.

The project will be paid for partially by a tax-increment financing (TIF) transaction, which will direct $22 million in new city and county property taxes over a 20-year period toward the project.

The TIF would be authorized by an amendment to the existing Knoxville South Waterfront Redevelopment and Urban Renewal Plan.

Officials say city and county property tax collections will increase substantially from their current level, even during the term of the TIF, when portions of tax revenue are allocated to payment of debt service.

"It's really just its forgone money, its money we wouldn't get anyway," said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.

"For the average person, TIFs sound like why are they getting that tax break? But the return on the investment is proven," said State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey.

The Baptist site was also designated as a brownfield site.

Should the TIF be approved, it would be the largest in city history, surpassing the University Commons project, another brownfield site granted a $10 million TIF by Knoxville City Council in April.

"We're happy to do this, because we think it brings a brownfield site that's been vacant back into productive use again," Whetsel said.

The deal needs approval from Knoxville City Council and Knox County Commission.

Commissioner Brad Anders says he's waiting on final numbers to see how public infrastructure on the site upgrades would be financed through the TIF.

"We haven't seen the final plan and so that's really, once you see the final site plan, that's when you determine if it's a feasible TIF," said Knox County Commissioner Chairman Brad Anders.

A critical component of this TIF is the city or county is not liable for any additional expenses should the project go under.

Construction on the first part of the project, the student housing complex, could start by early 2014.

The hearing on the TIF proposal is set for 4 p. m. on Thursday, Oct. 10 at the Knoxville's Community Development Corporation offices, 901 N. Broadway.

The TIF proposal is expected to go to City Council for approval on Oct. 15th; to County Commission on Oct. 28th; and to the KCDC Board on Oct. 31. As the City's designated redevelopment authority, KCDC administers all redevelopment areas.

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