Grand Island Regional Planning Director Chad Nabity says that renovating or rebuilding in an area like downtown can be costly when it’s finished because the jump in value increases property tax too.
When about $1 million in improvements are complete in Tower 217, the old Masonic Temple building on N. Locust St., its property tax will go up more than $10,000. But a funding source called tax increment financing lets the Community Redevelopment Authority capture the difference between the old tax and new, then use it as a relief incentive.
“What TIF does is it kind of keeps those taxes down there where you can afford to make those improvements as long as you’re getting those dollars back,” says Nabity.
Now approved for the TIF help, developer and contractor Amos Anson says it was vital to the Tower 217 project and their business planning. The funding comes just as a new boutique prepares to move into part of the main floor to open up shop.
“We are getting our first tenant moved in, that’s been my full concentration of all of our efforts, and then our next concentration will be on addressing the life-safety issues because when we start developing the second floor, all of those need to be in place,” says Anson.
Fire cords have long held up redevelopment of the seven story building, but Anson says they’ve been working with city inspectors to do Tower 217 floor-by-floor.
“If you have to put the second staircase, the fire sprinklers, the alarm all the way up, you’re going to be sinking a million dollars into the building before you’re even cash-flowing at all, before any tenants can move in,” he says.
As an icon of Grand Island, city officials say it’s a project they hope spurs more change in downtown.
“Getting more people downtown, with more people downtown you can support more businesses, with more businesses there’s more reason to go downtown, all of those things build on each other,” says Nabity.
Anson says the plan is to build more businesses or living space on the next floors, it just depends on which prospective tenants show interest first.
The top two floors are combined into one, and Anson says they envision it as a restaurant or banquet hall space.