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Durango approves MidTown redevelopment plan

City Council expresses unanimous support for 25-year renewal effort
Durango City Council unanimously approved a 25-year plan Tuesday to reinvest in the MidTown area.

Durango residents will start seeing new development projects and improvements in the city’s MidTown area just north of downtown.

In what city staff members called a “culminating moment,” Durango City Council unanimously approved Tuesday a 25-year plan to pour redevelopment energy into MidTown, a 50-acre stretch of town featuring deteriorating conditions or underdeveloped areas.

It’s the first project of the Durango Renewal Partnership, an urban renewal authority that comes with tools and incentives for development.

“We’ve heard from the community strong support for bringing MidTown as our first urban renewal area,” said Alex Rugoff, the city’s business development and redevelopment specialist.

Parts of the MidTown area – which stretches from West Ninth Street to just north of East 15th Street and from the Animas River to East Second Avenue – need some help. There are cracked sidewalks, run-down buildings, empty lots and disjointed streets.

MidTown area

These conditions meet the state’s definition of blight and therefore qualify the area for investment through an urban renewal authority.

These authorities have a host of financial tools they can use to spur growth in an area. One of the most notable is tax-increment financing, which allows more financial investment without raising taxes or cutting other costs.

Essentially, the financing tool establishes a baseline for sales and property taxes collected in the district. Any increases above that baseline act as the authority’s budget for bonds, loans and public improvements. The money, however, can only be spent within the established district.

In theory, that makes the district more appealing to private developers and those revenue increases will grow as more development occurs.

The MidTown project could conservatively generate up to $10.3 million in a 25-year period to devote to attainable housing in the area, according to a study by Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc.

The most ambitious tier for redevelopment estimated increased property values might bring in $35.7 million to pay for attainable housing.

That means the city’s plan could finance between 102 and 500 new units of attainable housing, according to the SEH study. The units would be built within the 50-acre MidTown area.

MidTown would also help the city make infrastructure improvements, encourage mixed-use development and incentivize arts and cultural opportunities, city staff members said.

The MidTown plan does not require businesses or residents to relocate, but if businesses or residents are displaced, the city can help them find another location and potentially even make relocation payments.

Business owners and several area economic organizations, such as Durango Business Improvement District and Durango School District 9-R, have shared support for the MidTown Urban Renewal Plan.

“The initiative takes a very progressive approach to revitalization that leverages creative financing and addresses our community challenges,” said Michael French, executive director for the La Plata Development Alliance, during a short public hearing about the plan. “We believe it’ll take public-private partnerships to advance any economic development initiatives, and the URA is a great example of facilitating these.”

smullane@durangoherald.com

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