Largest “signature” TIF projects still in holding patterns

Last year, one of the top topics of conversation in Owensboro and Daviess County was the proposed Gateway Commons “signature” tax increment financing proposal for an expansive development off of Kentucky 54. 

The Owensboro project fell by the wayside after failing to meet state approval, but even those other “signature” TIF projects that garnered state support have been moving forward slowly, if they are moving at all. 

The unsuccessful $321 million project proposal in Owensboro would have used public tax dollars to build an arena, a convention center and other public infrastructure needs for the 265-acre development that would have also included retail, commercial and residential space. 

Under tax increment financing, tax dollars generated within a new development can be funneled back to the developer to cover construction costs of public amenities. 

The project as designed died when the state Tax Increment Financing Commission denied the application to establish the TIF district, saying the program was not designed to fund projects on undeveloped “greenfields.”

Although the Gateway Commons TIF district didn’t pass muster, the state commission did approve several other signature TIF projects around the state, including the Ovation development in the northern Kentucky city of Newport, the Museum Plaza project in downtown Louisville and an expansive downtown development district in Bowling Green.  

In Newport, mounds of fill dirt have been hauled to the riverfront site for Ovation, but the project developer Corporex hasn’t said when construction of the $800 million project will begin, according to an article today by Scott Wartman with the Kentucky Enquirer. 

The initial construction work in downtown Louisville on the Museum Plaza project began about a year ago after the project became the first to receive the approval of the State Tax Increment Financing Commission. 

But last month, developers told the Courier-Journal that the project was on hold for the foreseeable future due to problems securing financing for the $490 million skyscraper in the tough credit market. 

“We’re just going to continue plugging away until we can get this project financed and make it a reality,” attorney Craig Greenberg, one of Museum Plaza’s four investors, told C-J reporter Marcus Green. “And right now we just can’t tell you how long that is.”

The TIF project in Bowling Green seems to be the exception, and has only seen an expansion to the plans since its approval by the state, though construction has not begun.

The downtown project received the approval of the State Tax Increment Financing Commission last year, and the city commission voted last month to expand the project from 106 acres to 383 acres, according to an article by Jim Gaines with the Bowling Green Daily News. 

That expansion will have to be approved by the commission, but officials and developers in Bowling Green are still hopeful of pouring $200 million into the project over the next six years to meet requirements for state funding help.

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