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TIF districts have helped West Allis redevelop itself

Jan. 31, 2013

West Allis - The city has had mixed success with the special redevelopment districts known as tax incremental financing districts, but all have played a role in reshaping the community.

As was the case for the redevelopments involving Quad Graphics, the lime pit and the Six Points area, the city makes an area ready for development by creating a TIF district, a special taxing district in which communities borrow to clean up a site or install infrastructure and then use property taxes from new development to pay the annual debt service on the borrowing.

When the economy fell, many other communities also found themselves having to pay part of TIF debts because their development was unexpectedly slowed. That was a factor in TIF districts 5 and 6, which city officials are considering aiding using funds from one of its most successful investments, the Quad Graphics project.

But overall, using TIFs as a redevelopment tool has powerfully transformed West Allis, Patrick Schloss, community development manager said.

In place of derelict factories, contaminated sites and rundown parts of the city, new vibrant businesses and housing have gone up, he said.

For example, TIF 7 gave rise to Summit Place, which will be the biggest property taxpayer in the city when it finishes paying off the city costs to prepare the site, Schloss said.

Without TIF 7, the site of former industrial giant Allis-Chalmers would have continued to be a place used in milorganite production and sale, he said. Now there are 650,000 square feet of prime office space employing hundreds of people.

Similarly, TIF 5 in Six Points swept away flop houses and strip joints that were replaced by apartments, condos and other development, he said.

Redevelopment approaches $200 million in the city's 13 TIF districts, Schloss said. Three of those TIFs have paid off the city's investment in their sites and are now producing new property tax revenue.

The rest are self-sustaining, except for TIFs 5 and 6, Schloss said.

In those two cases, the city isn't using its tax levy to aid the TIFs - rather, it is using reserves built up by savings it was able to achieve and is using other financial resources, said City Administrator Paul Ziehler.

The city's help will be repaid, though, with interest, Ziehler said.

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