Northwood hires advisors for the Enclave project

Kelly J. Kaczala

        Northwood recently hired a law firm and municipal advisor to assist in the development of the former Woodville Mall site.
        “The city just recently brought on board Allison Binkley from Squire Patton Boggs, a law firm out of Columbus, as our bond counsel, and Brian Cooper, from Baker Tilly, a municipal advisory firm from Columbus,” said Glenn Grisdale, of Reveille, an economic consultant for Northwood. “Cooper is going to help us decide on the best route forward in developing a financial package.”
        The city has proposed a full buildout of the southerly two-thirds of the site for commercial, public spaces, and mixed use development.
        Called the “Enclave,” the mixed use site will include senior housing, a bank, apartments, a public park, and a possible shopping plaza. Plans also call for a new road from 579 and East Plaza that will enter the site, then exit onto Woodville Road, where the former main entrance of the former mall was located. A smaller road to the north will be developed that will go into the proposed park.
        “We’re examining the best way in which to borrow money and put the road in,” said City Administrator Bob Anderson.” Should we try and borrow the money all at once, or get a line of credit? We’re going to basically borrow enough money to get started, and then possibly bond the rest of the project. We’re not completely sure we’re going to go the bond route because we have the ability to borrow just on a general obligation note with the city’s finances.”
        The estimated cost is between $7.5 million to 8 million, said Anderson. The cost would cover waterline, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, and roadway improvements. Demolition of buildings at the site, which already occurred, and site preparation cost $523,000. 
Loan or bond
        If the city goes the bond route, interest would accrue immediately, Grisdale explained.
        “If we go the bond route, interest starts to accrue the day we borrow it,” he said. “If we go the loan route, we can get approved, and interest starts accruing when we borrow it, but we can choose when we start to borrow it. Right now, we have contact with a variety of different folks who are interested in certain aspects of our project. But a lot of it is preliminary. And it’s all contingent on us having a product to market. Right now, we just have a vacant parking lot. So we’re trying to establish our options with the folks we just brought on board, and what makes the most financial sense to the community.”
        Grisdale said there should be some sort of ordinance brought before council in January to determine whether a bond or loan would be used.
        Other possible funding sources could include:
        •General revenues: City officials could opt to use a portion of its general revenues to improve the site. Council allocated $1 million to remove the buildings that remained on the site.
        •Property taxes/short term levy: The city could pursue the feasibility of passing a short-term levy to help in the implementation of the project, or a portion of it, like the public park. At 1.6 mills, the city currently has the lowest property tax millage of all communities in Wood County.
        •Grants. Several aspects of the site plan could receive grant funding.
        The city has been approved for Tax Increment Financing (TIF), an economic development mechanism available to local governments to finance public infrastructure improvements that support residential, commercial, industrial and mixed use development, and, in certain circumstances, residential rehabilitation. Communities would need to work with the affected schools for TIFS that redirect taxes at a rate that exceeds 75 percent over 10 years.
        Payments derived from the increased assessed value of any improvement to real property beyond that amount are directed towards a separate fund to finance the construction of public infrastructure defined within the TIF legislation.
        “Any new valuation would go to the county auditor, and the taxes would go back to the city to pay for our expenses on the bond or the loan used for the construction of the project,” said Grisdale.
        “We need to entice some commercial buildings to the site. Their real estate taxes will pay off the money we borrow for the project,” said Anderson. The front part of the property is in a TIF district, said Anderson. The rest of the site is designated a Community Reinvestment Area (CRA), which will assist in residential development.  A CRA is an economic development tool administered by municipal and county government that provides real property tax exemptions for property owners who renovate existing or construct new buildings.
        Local examples of TIF financing include Access Pointe in Northwood in the Caple Blvd. area,
Levis Commons in Perrysburg, and the Crossroads in Perrysburg Township/Rossford.    
        Tools to help promote the Enclave include connectivity programs like the Woodville Road Safety Study and the Safe Routes to School project. The city completed the Safe Routes to School project in January with the goal to encourage and improve the number of K-8 students that walk and bike to school. Two grant applications would help fund sidewalks along Lemoyne and Wise Street.
        The Woodville Road Safety Study’s goal is to promote safety pedestrian connectivity along the corridor. Solutions include sidewalks, removing the signal at Commerce, and a potential roundabout at Lemoyne Road that will be well-lit and easy to access for pedestrians.


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