Tuesday’s public hearing on the city of Columbus’ intention to create a redevelopment authority may not have satisfied all those who view city government with skepticism.
But it should assuage fears that city leaders have some sinister ulterior motive in putting together a five-member group that would oversee the city’s efforts to work with private investors to redevelop areas of the city that have either lain fallow or have fallen into disrepair.
The idea of establishing a redevelopment authority comes as the city tries to determine how best to use seven acres of city-owned land in an area known as The Island, which lies adjacent to the Columbus Riverwalk and Columbus Soccer Complex. The completion of renovations to the Old Highway 82 Bridge links the Riverwalk to that undeveloped parcel. City officials and residents have been brainstorming ideas of how to use that property for more than a year now.
City officials have stated a desire to develop the city-owned portion of the land as a park to serve as a place-holder until a larger plan for The Island can be established.
The ultimate goal of course is for private entities to invest in the part of the Island that is not currently used for industrial purposes.
The success of that venture, of course, relies most heavily on convincing private investors to sign on.
One time-tested means of facilitating private investment is the formation of a redevelopment authority. For years, cities large and small have used redevelopment authorities as a tool to address issues that tend to discourage private investment, such as blighted properties and bureaucratic policies that make it difficult for investors to pursue projects.
Redevelopment authorities, when properly funded, organized and implemented, allow cities to buy properties that have become eyesores. They also create a framework through which the city can work cooperatively with private investors, smoothing the way for development that might otherwise be bogged down in red tape. It also affords the city some latitude in helping private investors deal with taxes, loans and other agreements. In the best of circumstances, these aren’t “give-aways” or “corporate welfare,” but reasonable compromises that not only facilitate development but serve the interests of residents.
Blighted properties or properties that have languished unused and undeveloped have an impact on all of us, since those conditions affect property values in the area.
Right now, the city has identified multiple areas that would be targeted by a redevelopment authority including The Island, the warehouse district in Southside, Fifth Street between downtown and Leigh Mall and Main Street from 12th Street east to the railroad tracks.
What is important to note is that the redevelopment authority is not a back-door effort to seize private property through eminent domain, a fear city officials sought to allay during Tuesday’s meeting.
But it does give the city the authority to invest in blighted parcels for the purpose of turning those eyesores into something that is appealing to the eye and, hopefully, investors.
We favor the move, which has been proven to be successful in many cities.
While private investment remains the most important aspect of any successful effort to redevelop any of the targeted areas, creating a redevelopment authority allows the city to have done the work necessary to allow those private investors to hit the ground running.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.