Self-tax proposed for commercial property owners in Fountain Square

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Another significant Indianapolis community is attempting to tax itself to fund the type of maintenance and improvements the city budget won’t support.

The Greater Virginia Avenue Corridor Economic Improvement District would tax businesses and exempt property owners from $5.75 to $7.75 per linear foot to pay for enhancements to city work that has transformed the Fountain Square commercial area in the last decade.

“The EID fund will raise $83,000, all invested into the corridor,” said Project Manager Kelli Mirgeaux. “The city of Indianapolis Department of Public Works actually has a match of $45,000 so altogether we’re going to have about $123,000 we get to reinvest back into the area.

“The city does the best it can on the budget that they have and the EID doesn’t replace any city services that are provided. They will continue to provide maintenance services but what it does is it allows us to pursue some of the larger infrastructure projects that have sat on the back burner that haven’t been paid attention to: improving some of our sidewalks in the commercial corridor, things of that nature.”

The EID would be restricted to commercial property owners, not residents, along Virginia Avenue from East Street, along Prospect Street to Spruce Street and along Shelby Street to the I-65 overpass.

“We think we can do something a little bit extra and in the same trends of other cities throughout the country that have employed things like EIDs to make quarters more beautiful, more vibrant, more attractive not only for people looking to come here but also for employers looking to retain employees,” said Jake Dietrich, Director of Development of Milhaus Development and a board member of the proposed district. “The EID will target several things, at least in the first couple of years. One being a kind of districtwide marketing plan to understand what the needs and focuses are that we should do but also things like adding more security personnel and maintenance personnel to our key events as well as doing things like adding public art and public bike racks.”

$5,000 would be dedicated annually to the upkeep of a new fountain plaza in the heart of Fountain Square.

A mural for the I-65 overpass on Shelby Street is planned as well as improvements to the sidewalk along the north side of Virginia Avenue.

Neighbors in Woodruff Place recently launched an EID that locally raises $45,000 annually, with an equal match from the city, to maintain green spaces and fountains.

Downtown commercial and residential property owners are currently voting on an EID to raise $3 million annually to spruce up and promote the city’s core.

If the downtown and the Virginia Corridor EIDs are approved, they would meet at East Street and provide a seamless transition of privately-financed maintenance, improvement and marketing funding stretching out to the southeast commercial community.

“The EID provides us with a dedicated fund and it provides property owners with control of where their money goes,” said Mirgeaux. “We have no control over where the property tax goes.”

“They know that their money is being pooled together with other property owners’ money to come up with more collective capital improvement projects that they couldn’t necessarily do on their own,” said Dietrich.

The total assessed value of the properties inside the Greater Virginia Avenue Corridor EID boundaries is $11 million.

Supporters claim more than 51% of the owners of the most valuable properties support the EID and soon they expect to have more than 51% of all property owners on board with a submission to the City County Council for approval by the end of the year.