Indianapolis proposes $5.5 million Mile Square Economic Enhancement District
City-county council unveils economic enhancement district
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indianapolis City-County Council unveiled plans for an Economic Enhancement District in downtown Mile Square.
The plan will collect a fee from property owners in the Mile Square area to provide additional services in an effort to improve the downtown area.
The fee would provide is $5.5 million dollars to be used for public safety, cleanliness and homeless outreach.
Public safety will take up $1.025 million, homeless outreach comes in at $570,000, administrative costs are $365,000 and the largest portion of the budget will be cleaning services at $2.040 million.
Cleaning services include things like street sweeping, power washing and graffiti removal. Public safety will include safety ambassadors and security upgrades.
Taylor Hughes, vice president of policy and strategy for the Indy Chamber, and Taylor Schaffer, the president and chief executive officer of Downtown Indy Inc., led the effort to create the framework.
“Basically (the goal is to) raise the quality of place in the downtown area as a way of protecting property owners investment and the quality of downtown Indianapolis,” Hughes said.
One major item in this program is additional homeless outreach and a new low-barrier homeless shelter. Operating expenses for the shelter will be partially funded by the Economic Enhancement District, or EED.
The shelter itself will be part of the new Housing Hub project which will centralize services for those experiencing homelessness. Mayor Joe Hogsett announced the purchase of land for this on Wednesday.
“One of my first actions upon taking office was the adoption of a Housing First strategy in Indianapolis, and today’s announcement is another historic step forward in our efforts to end homelessness in our city,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said in a release. “By purchasing this property and moving forward with this innovative Housing Hub, I am confident we can continue to lead the way in assisting our neighbors in need.”
The shelter will be in the southeast corner of downtown just outside of Mile Square on Georgia and Shelby Streets.
“Operating support for a housing hub or a low barrier shelter which is a single point of entry to Indianapolis’s housing system,” Hughes said. “It’s a place where an individual experiencing homelessness can be transported or go themselves to receive services.”
Homeless outreach services will be done in partnership with Horizon House and Adult and Child Services. This budget will allow there to be eight outreach workers with six of them working exclusively in the Mile Square area.
The legal framework was first passed by the state this spring in House Bill 1001 but now must go before the City-County Council to be enacted.
If passed, the EED will have a 10-year term and at the end of that period will need to be reauthorized by the City-County Council.
“Many of the programmatic aspects have really been based on what we’ve heard from property owners,” Schaffer said.
An appointed EED board will manage the proposed $5.5 million dollar budget. Operation guidelines for the board have not yet been created.
Half of the eight-person panel will be appointed by state officials and the other half by the city. Two will be appointed by the governor, one by the speaker of the House, one by the Senate pro tempore, two by the mayor, and two by the City-County Council. A majority of the board members are required to be property owners in the Mile Square area.
“In a post-pandemic context there’s a consensus that we need new resources, new strategies to maintain vitality in downtown Indianapolis,” Hughes said.
This type of body has been compared to an homeowners’ association of sorts, but the EED board does not have the power to determine how much property owners are charged in yearly fees. That power is placed solely on the elected City-County Council and based on the six-year moving average of Indiana nonfarm personal income.
Currently, the proposed rate is 0.1681% off the assessed value for property owners such as businesses, apartment buildings and parking structures. Individual homeowners will be charged a flat fee of $250.
There is no option to opt out of this fee.
“Downtown Indianapolis is the largest central business district in the country to not have a tool like this,” said Schaffer. “To not have dollars that are dedicated toward day-to-day operations just like we are talking about.”
Currently, the proposed EED services are being funded at a lesser rate by American Rescue Plan federal funds, set up as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that is set to run out in June of 2024.
If this EED is passed by the end of the year funds will not be available until after taxes are collected in the spring of 2025, based on 2024 assessed property value, creating nearly a year-long gap in funding these services.
The plan will be presented to the council on Nov. 13. A final vote is expected in December.
After the plan was proposed to the full council the Republican Caucus of the Indianapolis City-County Council shared a statement with News 8.
“The move to push for this new tax on downtown residents and small business owners is dishonest and distasteful. We just had an entire municipal election cycle in which Mayor Hogsett and every Democrat on this council ignored every attempt by the media or public to discuss this tax increase. After refusing to take a position before voters cast their ballots, it is underhanded that council Democrats and the mayor would push this tax increase less than two days after the election. If they really felt this was good policy, they had a whole year to campaign on it instead of ignoring it.
We encourage the council to vote no on this tax increase in this “lame duck” period. Voters deserve to have this tax robustly debated by the newly elected council in January. Moving forward with this tax increase at this time is a shady political move and should be stopped.”
– Council Republican Caucus