INDIANAPOLIS — Neighborhood leaders from 30th Street to Broad Ripple are frustrated with the City of Indianapolis right now for what they describe as operating in bad faith. 

Proposal 331 authorizes $26 million in redevelopment district bonds for the purchase of the Broad Ripple Family Center. The bonds will be repaid through facility revenues, park revenues and money from the Midtown TIF.

This is what Midtown Indy leaders are frustrated with, the Midtown TIF was created more than 10 years ago to be a boon for development across the district.

”The goal of the TIF is to make sure whenever we do an investment in the northern part of the district we do an investment in the southern part of the district,” said John Barth, the City-County Councilor for District 7.

Barth helped to spearhead the TIF when it was created. He said the best example of how the TIF is supposed to work is the Coil building in Broad Ripple and the Tarkington Park improvements off 38th Street.

“All the improvements that happened to Tarkington Park in the last several years happened because of the investment in Broad Ripple, those two things were joined at the hip,” Barth said.

A million dollars from the TIF was put into Coil and a million dollars was put into Tarkington Park – Barth and Midtown Indy Executive Director Michael McKillip said that’s the formula, which is why they were both surprised when the city announced it was going to use millions in Midtown TIF money to pay off the Broad Ripple Family Center.

”It is legally permissible for the city to do what it’s doing but it is a complete violation of the purpose of this TIF and the relation the Midtown Economic Council has had with the city,” McKillip said.

McKillip said the Midtown Economic Development Council meets with city leaders four times a year to talk about development in the district. It wasn’t until the last 15 minutes of a November meeting that city representatives broke the news to the council it was planning to use millions from the Midtown TIF to pay off the debts of the Broad Ripple Family Center.

McKillip said this is a complete break from the working relationship the Midtown Economic Development Council and city has had when it comes to TIF money.

”Not one dollar of the TIF has been spent without a positive vote of support from the Midtown Economic Council, so if this moves forward and we can’t find an agreement with the city this would be the first time the city has spent any TIF money without the support of our community,” McKillip said.

He sees these as dire consequences that could lead to neighborhood leaders losing trust in city leaders.

”23,000 homes, just shy of 60,000 people, live here so we feel like we owe it to folks to stand up and remind the city and the council that this TIF was intended to serve the community as a whole and not just one project,” McKillip said.

No one with the city was available for an interview but a spokesperson said Proposal 331 is the fiscally responsible way to purchase the Broad Ripple Park Family Center.

The purchase price of the family center is $26 million and if the facility is not purchased by the end of the year the price will rise by $1 million. The spokesperson said Indy Parks & Rec would have to cover this expense and that would lead to cuts to “critical parks capital investments.”

Barth and McKillip are for the city buying the Broad Ripple Family Center, but not at the expense of multiple projects across the district for years to come.

”Stakeholders around the district have been planning projects with the TIF in mind as a vehicle to help make those things possible,” McKillip said. “If this bond goes through, it is clear the TIF  will not be a resource for the short, intermediate or next decade for any of those projects.”

McKillip said the city has not given Midtown Indy a financial analysis so it’s unclear how much money would be taken out of the TIF. Currently, McKillip said the TIF generates roughly $2.25 million. Using the TIF to pay for the family center would take out those funds for years to come.

McKillip said potential projects eyeing TIF money were a grocery store in a vacant lot on the corner of 38th St. and Illinois. Another vacant lot that used to have a gas station on it at the corner of 44th St. and College Ave. was also being looked at for redevelopment supported by TIF money.

There isn’t much time to change the city’s mind since the family center has to be bought before the end of the year to avoid a price increase. Both sides will meet again on Tuesday at the Metropolitan Development Committee meeting.

Barth hopes to come to a solution that both sides can be happy with.

”Both paying off the Broad Ripple Family Center and making sure we have a meaningful investment in the southern part of the district,” Barth said.

By doing this, the spirit of the TIF would remain – investing in development in both sides of the district.

McKillip sees a different solution, though. One that stays completely away from Midtown TIF dollars.

”Can you not just remove the TIF and have the taxpayers of Marion County pay off this debt for a city-owned asset that is for the enjoyment of all citizens of the city,” McKillip said.

A vote will happen at the Metropolitan Development Committee meeting next Tuesday on whether or not to send Proposal 331 to the full City-County Council. The council will then vote on whether or not to send the proposal back to the MDC for final approval.