Howard Considers Columbia TIF

Rouse Company successor Howard Hughes Corp. is asking Howard County for a $170 million tax increment financing (TIF) package to finance infrastructure supporting $2 billion of development on a mostly undeveloped parcel called “the Crescent” in downtown Columbia, reports The Baltimore SunThe bonds would finance front-end costs for road improvements, water and sewer lines, stormwater management and a parking garage which would also serve Merriweather Post Pavilion.

The Crescent, a 22-acre arc located between Merriweather and Broken Land Parkway, would feature high-density, urban, walkable development, in line with the county’s long-term plans for the area. The Sun describes the development proposal:

In the future, downtown Columbia could include soaring office towers, thousands of new homes, a hotel and more shopping — completing what boosters say was the vision of the late James W. Rouse to create a “real city” at the heart of the suburban town he launched 50 years ago.

County Executive Allan Kittleman is proposing multiple bond issues for the project over three to four years, with consideration now due for the first issuance of $90 million. The County Council is scheduled to discuss this first issuance during a work session on Tuesday.

As in this summer’s negotiations in Baltimore City over a TIF to support Port Covington, some have expressed concerns about the size of and need for the TIF. Both Kittleman’s administration and the County Council hired their own consultants – MuniCap and TischlerBise, respectively – to analyze the proposal. Both found it justified, although TischlerBise couched the economic benefits more conservatively. Concerns have also arisen as to whether existing affordable housing requirements suffice when they have bore little fruit in past projects. Reports The Sun, 

 Also wrapped into the discussion of development in downtown Columbia is a debate over affordable housing. Currently, developers pay money into an affordable housing fund for each residential unit they build.

But that money hasn’t yet translated into more affordable units downtown. Howard Hughes, working with the administration and housing groups, has proposed a plan that would require affordable units to be built in exchange for allowing more total units and relaxing parking requirements.

[County Councilmember Jen] Terrasa has proposed a plan that would require downtown developers to set aside 15 percent of their housing units for affordable housing.

While the housing bills and TIF bills are separate, the affordable housing requirements will factor into Howard Hughes’ plans for its project.

Read The Baltimore Sun article here.

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