In a move that's been a long time coming, the Deep Ellum Tax Increment Financing District Board met Monday to approve a recommendation to the City Council that the district be expanded to include the area that people actually think of as Deep Ellum.
The core of Deep Ellum, the area that consists primarily of Commerce, Main and Elm streets between Good-Latimer Expressway and Hall Street, has been excluded from the TIF district -- a special district that gives property tax incentives to owners who make improvements on their properties -- since it was drawn up in 2005.
The central Deep Ellium properties were left out, Deep Ellum Foundation President Barry Annino says, because a group of their owners sued the city in 2004 over rotting sewer lines under Deep Ellum.
"To make [the TIF district] happen, we kinda made a deal with [the city]," Annino says, "where they could just take a bite out of it."
That gerrymandering is what gives the TIF district, a map of which you can see below, its fish-like shape
Ever since, there've been rumors that the doughnut hole would be closed sometime in the near future, but it hasn't happened for almost a decade.
The impetus for finally doing so, according to Annino, is increased development in central Deep Ellum beyond the businesses that were already there when the TIF district was created.
"The quality that's going in, take Pecan Lodge for example, the guys are beginning to put in a lot of money and they're beginning to fix the areas around the existing businesses," he says.
"In the past, it wouldn't have changed anything, because things were already developed in the middle," he says.
Now that things are less static in the central areas, it makes sense for the city and Deep Ellum business owners for the district to be expanded, he says.
For its part, the city seems to be enthusiastic about the changes. Karl Stundins, the city's area redevelopment program manager, told The Dallas Morning News that "[w]e think Deep Ellum is a critical area that bridges the Fair Park area and downtown."
Annino says the move isn't essential to Deep Ellum's development, but that any amount of extra money will contribute to the neighborhood's revitalization. One of the neighborhood's most historic, and longest unused buildings, the Knights of Pythias Temple at the corner of Elm and Good-Latimer is, according to Stundins, a "key location" and one of the reasons for the expansion. Annino says the building was going to be developed with or without the TIF.
"I think it's gonna happen anyway," he says, "because there's not going to be enough money [from the TIF district] to make a difference considering [how much it is going to cost renovate the building]."
The incentive the TIF provides is a little overrated but is still nice, he says.
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"Everything you can get to make things happen is a good thing," he says. "It's not the panacea for the whole thing. It's not going to turn the world around. It's just saying that more people are willing to invest in the neighborhood and this will just give it a little bit more money."
With the board's OK the changes will now go to the full City Council for final approval.