By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current
A group of community leaders gathered in a Midtown office building on Wednesday to learn more about New Market Tax Credits and how they might be applied to revitalize the Midtown district as it looks toward the future.
Through the Montana-Idaho Community Development Corporation, the credits have been applied in Missoula before, from the Garlington building downtown to the Poverello Center and the new Missoula Food Bank.
But together, they represent just three of the 35 projects completed by the nonprofit lending institution over the past few years. Community leaders would like to see that number increase as Midtown transforms on the heels of the new Brooks Street Corridor Study, released last month.
“Midtown development will happen thoughtfully and that includes the possibility of new market tax credits,” said Midtown Association member Ruth Reineking. “For the midtown association, it’s also looking at the Brooks Street Corridor Study and working with the city on things like design standards and zoning overlays to help it develop in a way that helps it contribute to that sense of place and quality of life.”
Since 2008, the U.S. Treasury has awarded the Montana-Idaho CDC roughly $431 million in New Market Tax Credits to create jobs and economic opportunities, from revitalizing uptown Butte to expanding the Golden Valley Naturals beef jerky factory in Idaho.
On Wednesday, the organization’s president, Dave Glaser, encouraged business owners and members of the Midtown Association to consider New Market Tax Credits as they look to the future, one that’s likely to see the district evolve with housing and new economic opportunities.
“Our job as a nonprofit is to make sure people, businesses and projects that are just outside the financial mainstream get the capital they need to be successful and ultimately move into the financial mainstream,” Glaser said. “We’re just trying to help people realize opportunity, and we do that all across Montanan and Idaho.”
To qualify for New Market Tax Credits, a project must be located in a “low income” census tract, which includes nearly all of Missoula, and it must offer a high community impact.
The total project must also exceed $4 million in value, and at least 25 percent of the income from the completed project must come from commercial use.
“New markets was designed to increase economic activity in low-income areas, not housing solutions in low-income areas,” Glaser said. “That’s why 25 percent of the annual income of a project must be commercial by nature. You can have housing, but you must have commercial enterprise as part of the project.”
That requirement fits well with the Midtown vision, one that could see mix-used development with housing built atop ground-floor retail. General commercial projects completed across the state have included the Red Lion Hotel in Polson, the Historic Sears Building in Butte, and the Crowley Fleck Building in Helena.
While Helena, Butte and Rexburg, Idaho, have seen the most success with New Market Tax Credits, property owners and developers in the Midtown district may consider the credits as they explore future projects.
“If there’s a project you see when you drive around Midtown, you might say it’s possible,” said Andy Short, a member of the Midtown Association and a land-use planner with Territorial Landworks. “I’m a business owner right next door, and we all want to see the success of Midtown.
Short added, “I was thinking about our own building next store. I’m looking at a parking lot out there and I ask myself, could we do something with that and put another building up?”
Contact reporter Martin Kidston at firstname.lastname@example.org