At its recessed meeting on Tuesday, November 17, the Arlington County Board voted to "invest" $56 million with the hope to receive "dividends from Ballston development," to use a portion of the heading from the Arlington Sun Gazette story posted yesterday.
Here's the overview from the Sun Gazette story:
"Arlington government officials say their planned investment of about $56 million in the redevelopment of Ballston Common Mall will pay off in increased tax revenues throughout the corridor.
"County Board members on Nov. 17 voted unanimously to approve a public-private partnership with Ballston Common’s owner to move forward with a $300-million-plus makeover of the moribund mall.
"The county government’s direct contribution will total about $10 million, with the remainder coming from a bond to be issued by a newly-formed community development authority. Payments on the bond will be made using a share of expected increases in property taxes, sales taxes and meals taxes in the corridor.
"Approval of the specifics is expected in early 2016. If adopted, it will be the first public-private partnership of its kind in Arlington’s history.
"County Board members on Nov. 17 also approved a package of site-plan changes allowing Forest City Enterprises to move forward on its mall renovation."
The Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan provides a more fact-filled report today, including:
"By a vote of 5 to 0, the board voted to allocate $10 million in public revenue for garage and transportation improvements and create a tax increment financing district that would generate an additional $45.5 million.
"It would be the first time the county has tried that strategy, which has been in use across the Commonwealth and the country — including the District — for years.
“This has an enormous potential to be successful,” said J. Walter Tejada (D), the board’s vice chairman. Board Chairman Mary H. Hynes (D) agreed, calling the deal “a measured risk for a great return.”
Forest City, which owns the mall, intends to expand the property with new retail and office space and add a 22-story, 406-unit residential tower. The cost of the project is about $317 million.
Arlington’s $10 million grant would go toward improving the county-owned garage that serves the mall and such projects as rebuilding Wilson Boulevard, removing and rebuilding a pedestrian bridge and improving the streetscape.
"The $45.5 million in tax increment financing would be provided through the use of bonds, which Forest City would repay with the increased tax revenue the mall is expected to generate. If that revenue falls short, the county could impose a special tax to cover the shortage. That financing plan could be formally created early next year, and bonds could be issued by summer."
In his weekly column at ARLnow.org yesterday, former County Board GOP candidate Mark Kelly discusses Tax Increment Financing (TIF) in more detail, including:
"The argument for TIFs is that the development being paid for by the TIFs will increase revenue to the County above what we would have otherwise received. Therefore, despite setting aside a portion of that revenue to subsidize development, it is still a net benefit to the taxpayer."However, if a private developer cannot secure financing for a project in one of the most attractive real estate markets in the country, why should taxpayers agree to make up the difference?" (emphasis added)
Arlington County will receive "community benefits" from the developer,, Forest City Enterprises, according to the county's press release, which includes even more details than the news reports. Here's what the press release says about the so-called community benefits:
"The developer will comply with the Zoning Ordinance requirement for affordable housing either through a contribution to the County’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) or through the provision of on-site units. The redevelopment also includes:
- $1.8 million in site streetscape improvements
- $106,296 in utility undergrounding fund contribution
- $75,000 public art fund contribution
"Other benefits include improved $4.8 million in open space access and $4.6 million in connections between the mall and the Ballston area. These newly created spaces – including two plazas and mews — will be open for public use. The developer is also contributing $2.8 million for the pedestrian bridge, $4.7 million for Wilson Boulevard, Glebe Road and Randolph streetscape improvements, and up to $8.9 million in parking garage improvements."
In addition, the FAAC report from County Board's Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission reports, "the residential buildings planned for the redevelopment will receive a rating of silver from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program," a significant added cost for the developer.
The utopians on the County Board's Planning Commission, however, outdid their colleagues on FAAC. In their November 10, 2015 letter concerning the Letter of Intent related to the proposed public-private partnership, the commission chairman wrote (link not available):
"In several ways, Commissioners believe the main risk is that the partnership and the County's effort more generally may not go far enough. The general view is that the substandard streetscape surrounding the Ballston garage, the uninviting garage entrances, and the nature of the Glebe Road today present the County with important opportunities to secure out community's investment . . . Glebe Road needs the immediate attention of County staff, the Transportation Commission, VDOT, and other stakeholders to ensure it presents a humanized and inviting front and not a barrier to the revitalized Ballston Quarter . . . ." (emphasis added)
The Manager's reports to the County Board for the November 17, 2015 Ballston Quarter hearing can be found here, specifically agenda items 41.A. through 41.F. Items 41.A-C. discuss site plan changes; 41.D. involves a vacation; 41.E. involves an easement, but is deferred until the December 2015 Board meeting; and, 41.F. is the Letter of Intent, and contains the financial details of the public-private partnership.
So, let me get this straight. The County Board will plunder county taxpayers so the developer will provide community benefits, including contributions to an affordable housing slush fund, and be able to spend extra to "buy" something called a silver LEED rating. Is life great when you're a county bureaucrat?
Growls readers are encouraged to provide the Arlington County Board their thoughts on what they've wrought on the redevelopment of Ballston Quarter. Just click-on the link below:
- Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130
And tell them ACTA sent you.