More public money could be diverted into streets and storefronts in central Las Vegas if the City Council approves a proposed new redevelopment area.
But backers of the plan face skeptics worried about everything from the potential for losing property through eminent domain to the economic viability of the proposal.
Supporters and skeptics of the proposed redevelopment area gathered Wednesday for a public hearing on the issue in front of the City Council. The council is expected to vote on the subject next month.
Under the proposal, the city would create a redevelopment zone in commercial corridors along Sahara Avenue and Charleston and Decatur boulevards in central Las Vegas.
Public and private property within the zone would be targeted for improvement through programs such as matching grants for facade improvements, improved streets and sidewalks and infrastructure and tax incentives for developers looking to build new projects.
The improvements could be paid for with money that comes from increases in property tax revenue as values in the target area increase.
"This is really an incentive to bring back a downtrodden area," Mayor Carolyn Goodman said.
A study of the proposed redevelopment zone shows property in the target area has a total assessed value of nearly $288 million.
If property values increased by one-half of 1 percent, the redevelopment area could generate about $14.4 million over its 30-year life span. Projected revenue increases to $112 million if values increase 3 percent.
The cash could be used to back bonds for infrastructure projects or fund other incentives.
Economic and urban development director Bill Arent said to be successful, the redevelopment area would need to generate private investment well in excess of whatever money comes through property taxes.
"We are only getting new revenue from new development," he said. "So we are not talking about a windfall of revenue; redevelopment is a long-term process."
The proposal also details steps the redevelopment agency could take to acquire property through the use of eminent domain, although current city policy forbids the use of eminent domain to move property from one private party to another.
"You guys have unbelievable power in this thing," property owner Carl Plunkett told the council.
"We get to do what you tell us to do no matter what, and if we don’t … we are in deep trouble."
Others, however, praised the plan as a way to breathe new life into the area.
Flower shop owner John DiBella said he would like to be eligible for assistance to pay for sign or facade improvements, similar to the type of aid available to businesses in the existing downtown redevelopment zone.
"It is an amazing thing that is coming in our direction," DiBella said.
The council is scheduled to vote on the proposal Aug. 15.
During the meeting Wednesday, Goodman and council members Lois Tarkanian, Bob Coffin and Ricki Barlow, who compose a majority of the seven-member council, made comments in praise of redevelopment.
Councilman Bob Beers, however, said afterward he isn’t yet convinced that the city needs another redevelopment zone.
Beers said blight in the targeted area goes beyond "localized blight" redevelopment typically aims to reverse.
He also pointed out that with property values stagnant, it’s difficult to imagine property tax revenue rising enough to generate the cash needed to make a real difference.
The $1 million the city has already set aside to get started would be stretched over an area that has about 10 miles of major streets, he said.
"Is that enough to reverse the blight?" Beers asked, "especially if the blight is not localized blight but symptomatic of a regional economic downturn?"
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0285.