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Indianapolis brings back proposal for downtown taxing district

City reintroduces proposal for downtown economic enhancement district

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indianapolis city government is trying again to pass an ordinance creating a Downtown Economic Enhancement District.

The city tabled its original plan crafted in 2023, and the state legislature modified the law authorizing the district to exempt multifamily properties including apartment buildings.

Under the revised plan, commercial property owners, excluding nonprofits, would pay into district.

Taylor Schaffer, president and chief executive officer of Downtown Indy Inc., said Tuesday the revenue would help the city keep the sprawling downtown area clean and safe, and address homelessness. “It would also work to prioritize cleanliness, beautification, how downtown feels, what the experience of downtown is, how downtown feels cared for, that’s things like graffiti-removal power washing, picking up trash.”

The new proposal creates a larger footprint than the previous plan. The taxing district would expand from I-70 south to South Street, the combined I-65/I-70 route as the eastern boundary, and Blackford Street to the west.

“The fee is based on the assessed value of each property. The City-County Council wants to ensure that there is a cap on that rate, and that rate will reflect the assessed value,” Schaffer said.

Rob Strong’s Whistle Stop Inn, a bar and restaurant, falls within the boundaries of the proposed Economic Enhancement District. He said he’s not pleased at the idea of paying another fee on top of the taxes he already pays, “especially when you are doing construction that is lasting three years and starting another project.

“As you see right now, there is construction all on my street. Illinois Street is shut down. I lose revenue over that.”

Strong said he’s not sure why more tax money is needed to keep downtown clean and safe. “I’m don’t know the solution, but I don’t think taxing business owners is the way to go.”

Supporters say if Indianapolis wants to keep hosting large-scale events such as this year’s U.S. Olympics Team Trials for swimming and the NBA All-Star Game, then the city is going to need help with keeping downtown a hospitable place.

Schaffer said, “These would be services that are above and beyond what the city is able to offer on their own, and I think indicative of the unique nature of downtown. Downtown hosts bigger events. Downtown has far greater foot traffic.”

The council’s Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee will hold a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. July 15 at the City-County Building. The full council could hear the proposal in August.

Schaffer said, if passed, the tax would take effect in the spring.