Mazziotti emphasizes patience, complementary programs

A decline in property values this fiscal year will bring in just one-third of revenue originally projected for Beaverton’s newly formed Central Urban Renewal Plan.

Maintaining the tax-increment financing program — always vulnerable to larger market forces — is but one component of comprehensive redevelopment, however, city leaders are taking the long view.

“Urban renewal is a tool, not a solution,” said Don Mazziotti, the city’s economic and community development director. “Redevelopment must be accomplished by actions on many fronts.”

A recent report by the Washington County Assessment and Taxation Office revealed the city’s 1-year-old urban renewal program has netted $90,662 from property taxes in the 2012-13 fiscal year, which began July 1. That’s far less than the $270,000 the city projected, or certainly the $593,903 consultant ECONorthwest projected earlier last year.

Fueled through projected property tax revenue, urban renewal plans feed off of tax-increment financing. Tax assessments in a designated area are frozen at a set level, and the difference between the level and the property’s assessed value after improvements and expansions funds the agency’s public infrastructure projects.

Beaverton’s nearly 1,000-acre urban renewal district encompasses sections of Old Town Beaverton, properties along Murray Boulevard and the commercial/light-industrial district just east of Highway 217.

A staff report issued before an Oct. 23 Beaverton Urban Redevelopment Agency meeting expressed “concern” about the “slow accumulation of funds, public expectations and the ability to fulfill those expectations.” Last month, the agency borrowed $100,000 from the city to meet its expenditures.

Mazziotti, whose office oversees the Urban Renewal Agency, said the recent results are attributable to big-picture economic and market forces.

“Property values have continued to drop in the district since the base was frozen, and it was frozen during the recession and — hopefully — the tail end of the recession,” he said of declining property values averaging 11 percent. “So to characterize this as a surprise is really not accurate. It’s a disappointment that the real estate economy has not recovered as quickly as it has in the past.”

Rather than dwell on factors the agency can’t influence — or at least change overnight — Mazziotti touted a plethora of redevelopment-oriented projects and investments in the works that, as they move forward, will eventually play complementary roles with urban renewal as the program and economy gain traction.

Here are some of the recent programs he cited:

  • A Vertical Housing Program catering to affordable housing with ground-floor retail components.

    n The newly approved Enterprise Zone, which just gained its first participant when Vernier Software on Southwest Millikan Way announced $2.8 million in investments for a three- to five-year property tax abatement.

  • The Low-Income Community Investment Initiative, a business tax credit for low- to middle-income communities made possible through Oregon Senate Bill 817.

  • Acquisition of the South Office Building at The Round at Beaverton Central in April for $8.65 million. The city recently agreed to invest $80,000 in a building suite to accommodate the Oregon offices of U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Beaverton.

  • $1 million from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Agency for the Creekside Development Project centered on streams near The Round complex.

  • $1.6 million for a project to establish a Community Health Partnership in Central Beaverton to assist the area’s underserved populations.

    “We have put a number of redevelopment incentives in place, which are proving to be important tools to our effort,” Mazziotti said.

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