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Amendment One

by Dennis Marsoun

November 3,2004

Now that the election is over, and there are clear-cut winners, but really no losers, let me speculate about the effects that Amendment One, or Incremental Tax Financing, or Self-Funding Bonds, will have on Charlotte.

As a recap, this financial tool will allow the city to declare an area a “developmental zone.” Within this zone, a tax base will be determined. The local government, with the oversight of the state government, will then be able to issue incentives for development within that area, and the bonds used to fund those incentives will be paid by a percentage of the increased revenues achieved by those new developments.

This is significant because future revenue received over and above current revenue will be used to fund specific projects. Additionally, the state legislature will have to approve the conceptual formation of these zones.

No new taxes. No money coming from Lake Norman to pay for an uptown project. No shifting of money from other needs. This is not voodoo financing. Before the election, only two states had not adopted this tool, North Carolina and Arizona. Now 49 states will use it and benefit from it.

How will Amendment One benefit Charlotte? Well, if I were a betting man, I would look at two areas that I believe will be declared zones. I believe one area that will be a zone will be in the Second Ward, bordered by the Belk Freeway to the south and east, Third Street to the north, and College Street to the west.

Once this was a thriving community known as “Brooklyn.” During the Urban Renewal programs of the 1960’s, the area was designated as blight. The Belk Freeway was constructed putting a collar on downtown, homes were demolished, and public buildings were erected on “Super Blocks.” Hindsight is always easy, but you have to wonder what they were smoking back then.

Because of the layout of those blocks, and the placement of existing buildings, new development has been stymied, and pedestrian traffic was ignored. That, I hope, will end.

I believe another area that will be a zone will be in the Third Ward between Tryon and the railroad tracks, Fourth Street and again, the Belk Freeway. While the area does not have the same “Super Block” grid that the Second Ward has, it does have a sea of parking lots that feed uptown businesses during the week and the Panthers on game-days.

Third Ward needs substantial business and residential growth while maintaining current parking. Not an easy task. Specific plans for this area will have to include the funding of large underground parking lots to continue current service, with additional space to accommodate growth. Amendment One can provide the funding.

I predict that over the next five years, the changes in those two areas will be monumental. Anyone abducted by aliens and returned to Charlotte after undergoing bizarre experiments will not recognize the city on their return.

Returned alien abductees will be shocked to see OTDC retail (OTDC stands for other than dry cleaners). The projected population for downtown is 15,000 by 2010. I believe that number is low as downtown currently has about 9,500 residents, and by 2010 there will be an additional 5,000 people living in the Center City just because of Johnson & Wales University.

Already, there are residents, students and conventioneers wandering around looking for something to do. Sooner or later, retailers will see this and present them with an opportunity to spend their time and money in their shops.

As a realtor, I am keenly aware of the demand for living uptown. There are few options now, and too few in the future. This has to, and will, change. And the change will be in large part to the passage of Amendment One.

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