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Tribune Editorial: TIF proposal for First Street South block is a good idea for Willmar

The Willmar City Council is considering establishing a redevelopment tax increment financing district around these lots along the 600 block of 1st Street South. The block is located between Minnesota and Monongalia Avenues. One developer is already interested in a project on the west side of 1st Street. Shelby Lindrud / Tribune

The city of Willmar is considering an application from B&B Properties of Minnesota, LLC, for the creation of a redevelopment tax increment financing district on both sides of the 600 block of First Street South.

The city is also proposing expanding the boundaries of the Municipal Development District to include all of the property in the proposed TIF area.

The public will have an opportunity to comment on both proposals during public hearings at the Oct. 16 City Council meeting. The council gave preliminary approval for this new district back in June.

The possible development of the 600 block of First Street, which is located between Minnesota Avenue and Monongalia Avenue, would be a positive step for the city.

This block is one of the underdeveloped sections of the First Street corridor. The west side has had some structures removed in recent years. The east side contains either substandard, underutilized or vacant structures.

The business company has proposed two phases for the west side. The first would be a 7,600-square-foot retail/office/restaurant development. The second would include an additional 3,000-square-foot of commercial development.

Under the TIF proposal, the phase one and two projects would have a lifespan of 15 years. The east side's future development would be handled within the overall district's term limit of 26 years if needed.

Under a TIF proposal, the taxing jurisdictions, which would be Willmar, Kandiyohi County and Willmar Public Schools, would continue to collect existing taxes on this property. Any additional tax revenue on the property would go back to the developer, to assist in recapturing some of the costs incurred while developing the lots.

The reality is that without the approval of this TIF proposal, this stretch of First Street would remain remain undeveloped, with substandard, underutilized or vacant buildings for years to come..

In other words, an unattractive and undervalued block right on the main street of Willmar, which is near downtown.

The proposed 15-year TIF for this area would be an estimated $301,966, with the city's portion coming in at $89,805. The county's share would be $139,901, and the school's share totaling $66,795. At the conclusion of the 15-year TIF, the full value of the developed property tax will return to the taxing jurisdictions.

The City Council has given preliminary approval of this TIF plan and a majority of the council voted to hold the public hearings.

Councilor Ron Christianson voted against the hearing motion, saying he doesn't think the government should pick winners when it comes to business and economic development. Apparently, he thinks our city government should only aid private housing developers with lower property tax appraisals on developer lots than required by state law.

We agree with the majority of the City Council so far in supporting this development TIF proposal. The redevelopment of the 600 block of First Street would be good for the main street corridor, downtown and the city overall. It would be another positive step in moving Willmar forward.

The public will now have an opportunity to speak up at the two public hearings on Oct. 16. The hearing is time to speak up - in support or opposition - to this TIF proposal.

We believe this TIF proposal is a right step to help jump-start the redevelopment of this important block of the First Street corridor. We hope the city will soon approve these proposals.