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Study will help determine if old buildings can be revitalized in downtown Mitchell

February 8, 2019

MITCHELL – Some of Mitchell’s aging, vacant downtown buildings will be the subject of a study to help determine if they can be revitalized and brought back to productive use.

At the Feb. 5 council meeting, members approved moving forward with the first step in the process.

“This study that something I wanted to do when I was first elected,” said Mayor Dave Curtis. “We thought it had already been started but never finished.”

The city must first determine which properties are “blighted and substandard,” a term required by state statute in order to apply for grant funding.

“We want to apply for a Brownfield’s grant to help remediate mold and asbestos in several buildings,” Curtis said. “That process would be too costly for property owners to fund themselves.”

Curtis added he doesn’t like the term “blighted” but it’s required in order to apply for any number of state and federal grants. He sees the designation as an area that needs improvement.

In Mitchell, like many other small towns across the area, a number of commercial buildings are approaching 100 years old.

In several cases, the buildings are just substandard, not up to contemporary safety standards in areas like electrical, plumbing and handicap access. They might also suffer from crumbling support and sinking foundations.

“A blighted and substandard study is needed to get set up with Tax Increment Financing,” Curtis said. “Any other kind of economic development grant you write won’t be considered you don’t have that study in place. We think of our study as infrastructure development. And that leads to economic development.”

Since 1979, Tax Increment Financing (TIF) has been used as a method of financing the costs associated with a private development project. Basically, the property tax increases resulting from the development are used to repay the investment required by the project over a 15-year period.

TIF encourages private investment in deteriorating areas by allowing local governments to use future property tax revenues to finance more projects needed to attract development.

“We’re trying to get this in place to use for current citizens that want to redo their properties,” Curtis said. “We have a lot of vacant properties that are in much need of repair, buildings you couldn’t open today without significant remodeling.”

Curtis said he hopes those economic development tools will help soften the blow of extensive, costly renovations on downtown buildings that could become home for new businesses.

“We’re casting a vision for growing our downtown,” Curtis said “We want to bring the buildings back to life and get businesses in them. This study the council approved is just the first step in that process.”

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