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Poppleton tax incentives moving forward

A legislative package that includes $58.3 million in public funds for a proposed mixed-use development in West Baltimore will likely be heading to the full City Council next month.

On Thursday, the Baltimore City Council’s Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee held a hearing on three bills related to building a massive development by New York-based La Cité Development LLC in partnership with Flaherty & Collins Properties. The committee did not vote on the bills, but following the meeting, Councilman Carl Stokes, who is chairman of the committee, told La Cité Development President Daniel Bythewood Jr. the bill would pass out of committee.

“We’re elated. Absolutely elated,” Bythewood said following the hearing. “We’re excited to bring new and old residents back to this part of Baltimore.”

The development, which the company first submitted plans for in response to a request for proposals in 2004, is expected to cost $460 million. It would include 1,633 housing units and 52,000 square feet of commercial space.

Public funds would come through a device called tax increment financing that uses bond money to make infrastructure improvements associated with a project, and those bonds are repaid through increases in property tax revenues resulting from development. The city anticipate property taxes generated annually from the site would increase from $25,971 to $8.4 million after total build-out.

The project is expected to be built in four phases with a first portion beginning this year and final completion of the project expected in the next 15 to 20 years. The development plan calls for 20 percent of all residential units to be affordable housing.

Part of the first phase of the project calls for the construction of two mid-rise buildings on North Schroeder Street along the north and south side of Lexington Street. The first sub-phase involves building 257 rental units and 19,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space. Out of those units 52 will be set aside for households earning less than 50 percent of the area income.

If the legislation is approved by the City Council and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, it would fund public improvements around the projects such as road improvements, park space and utilities. The first round of bonds to be issued would total $12.2 million; it would finance $8.5 million in public improvements. The rest of the funds would go toward debt maintenance and assorted administrative costs.

Stokes, who has been an outspoken critic of the city’s use of incentives such as tax increment financing and payments in lieu of taxes, said he supports bringing development to communities like Poppleton but is still not a fan of the incentives being offered developers. He said he would prefer to see across-the-board tax breaks in the city.

“Doing it this way is an admission we have an uneven playing field in Baltimore City,” Stokes said.


About Adam Bednar

Adam Bednar covers real estate and development for The Daily Record.