Shorewood — Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor had to project his voice over the whirl of espresso machines when he called the Plan Commission meeting to order Saturday morning.
Commission members took a field trip to Alterra Coffee Roasters in Shorewood to start a personalized tour of the village's mixed-use development it its tax-incremental financing districts. The goal was to learn how to bring similar projects to Franklin.
"I've heard for many years that people in Franklin want nice restaurants, boutique shops, things of that nature," Taylor said. "There's ways of obtaining them, and I think Shorewood demonstrates one of the routes to getting there," Taylor said.
Shorewood's village president, Guy Johnson, and Community Authority Development chairman, Pete Petrie, led Franklin officials on the four-stop tour mostly along Oakland Avenue, and spoke about how the special taxing districts help raise commercial property values and eventually reduce the share of property taxes paid by homeowners.
TIF districts generally use tax dollars generated by improvements to pay for some aspect of the development up front. Once the district's debt is gone, which often takes years, the property taxes generated by the development flow to the village, its schools and other local governments.
New mixed-use development
Shorewood's Oakland Avenue business district has transformed over the past several years thanks to a series of commercial developments partly financed through the TIF districts. That strategy, which is laid out in the village's 2006 master plan, helped launch Alterra, which turned out to be an obvious spot to start Saturday's tour.
Alterra is one of several commercial tenants in the Cornerstone building at Kensington Boulevard and Oakland Avenue. The $8 million redevelopment project — $1.2 million of which was financed via a TIF district — features 24 luxury apartments and 11,000 square feet of first-floor retail space.
While walking around the 0.7-acre site that was formerly a Mobil gas station, Taylor said, "I think the people of Franklin would love something like this."
A few blocks south of the Cornerstone building another Shorewood TIF project is under construction.
Mandel Group is developing a six-story, mixed-use building in the parking lot for Nehring's Sendik's grocery store, 4027 N. Oakland Ave. The $32 million project includes 84 apartments and two separate parking decks. It will relocate Walgreens from another location.
"I think what's been going on in Shorewood all started with a good planning effort," Johnson said. "We didn't want it to be haphazard development, but to always follow some sort of plan. And that's what we feel we're doing."
Bringing lessons home
Franklin Planning Manager Joel Dietl understands Saturday's tour wasn't a perfect comparison. Franklin is not Shorewood and doesn't have the same population density.
But the tour's lessons were still invaluable to Franklin leaders as they explore expanding the city's TIF districts and look to develop the city's southwest region, where sewer services are being extended.
"My guess is that we'll take this info back with us and probably talk about it at a future meeting and how it could apply. It will always be something we'll have in our back pocket," Dietl said.
Franklin manages two TIF districts on portions of 27th Street, and hired consultants Ehlers and Associates to study the feasibility of expanding the use of tax-incremental financing into the northeast corner of the city.
Before leaving Shorewood on Saturday, Taylor said it was unusual for two local municipalities to get together like this, but ultimately that's the way government is supposed to work.
"I think it was an eye-opener for some of the people attending the meeting." Taylor said. "When I said goodbye to Mr. Petrie, he told me if we need any help, just give us a call. I mean how nice is that?"
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