Bismarck Renaissance Zone expires, what that means for downtown development
BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - As of August 1, the Renaissance Zone in Bismarck is no longer an option for developers looking for tax incentives to build or renovate downtown.
The Renaissance Zone in downtown Bismarck has made some new buildings and upgrades to existing buildings possible. But the tax incentives that went along with it made some people feel the playing field wasn’t level.
“You just made everybody else who wants to put up apartments have to compete against a guy downtown who didn’t do any storm water management, doesn’t have to have a parking ramp, doesn’t have to have parking spaces, doesn’t have to have green space and then doesn’t pay property tax. It’s crazy,” said Ron Knutson, a developer in Bismarck.
But others say building downtown isn’t without cost.
“It’s actually, I think, demonstrably more expensive to build or to do a project in the urban area. Even though as I said earlier there’s infrastructure, water, sewer and those things. There’s also buildings and you don’t have places to lay down equipment and supplies, a lot of time there’s environment issues if you’re dealing with an older building. So I guess you have to take the big view, is it good for one area of the city and therefore it’s good for the whole city,” said Jim Christianson, Chair of the Bismarck Renaissance Zone Authority.
However, it’s the new construction causing the heartburn for those who think it’s time to end the tax breaks.
“They’ve changed it from what it used to be to new construction, and it was never ever meant for that. And they did that without the legislature’s approval. I think that local commissions have just taken it upon themselves,” added Knutson.
Those in favor of the Renaissance Zone say it’s given back a thriving downtown to the community.
“Probably the biggest benefit we’ve seen - close to a hundred million dollars’ worth of new construction and or renovations through the Renaissance Zone program in Bismarck in the last 20 years,” said Christianson.
Once a Renaissance Zone expires, it cannot be brought back. Christianson and others working for downtown hope when the legislature meets in January, they will change the law, giving the program a second chance. But Knutson feels it has served its purpose and it’s time to let the fair market dictate where Bismarck flourishes, and instead, to give a tax break to Bismarck property owners.
The Renaissance Zone has one final project in the works, the old Community First Credit Union on 5th street was approved last month before the zone expired.
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