No TIF, No Development?

No TIF, No Development?

There has been much debate about the proposed riverfront development in the Strip District. A URA request for proposals says the development will be part residential, part hotel, part office and commercial, and have a parking garage.

The company announced today that it won’t pursue a TIF anymore, noting the company "does not wish to participate in a financing program the community views negatively" and that it will self-finance the infrastructure improvements that would have been funded with the TIF.

Why the change of heart? Was the company worn down by trying to get financing? Pittsburgh City Council agenda notes show that motions to adopt a Lower Strip District Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan and to set forth cooperation agreements with the URA, the County, and the Pittsburgh Schools were presented and withdrawn on nearly a weekly basis going back to late May of 2012.

Such a large development going forward without expecting some sort of subsidy is rare-the predictable by-product of handing out money to certain developments only to see others parroting the request. If a TIF were granted, the taxing bodies that opt to participate agree to redirect all or some of the incremental property taxes from their coffers to pay off debt issued to get the project off of the ground. Once the arrangement expires, usually it is a twenty year deal, they recapture all of the money from the property.

If the company holds true to its word, and it is not in line for nor seeking any other source of state or local subsidy, then there might be a lesson to be learned for those quick to hand out public dollars when asked and the strength of the "but for" criterion attached to TIF subsidies.