City of Portage, Indiana

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Portage plans infrastructure improvements to modernize old areas in the city

NWI TIMES

Joyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, 219-548-4352
Sep 9, 2018 Updated Sep 11, 2018

PORTAGE — City officials here are looking to expand the city's tax incremental finance district into two opposite corners of the community. The Redevelopment Commission recently approved a resolution to expand the Southport Economic Development Area, or TIF district, along both Central Avenue on the city's west side and along Industrial Avenue on the city's eastern edge.

The proposed expansion, said Colin Highlands, redevelopment administrator, is unusual in that it is not an effort to increase revenues to the redevelopment commission, but to help fund improvements. By including those areas in the TIF district, Redevelopment Commission proceeds can be used to help pay for those improvements. Plans include investing some $11 million into the two expansion areas for land acquisition and improvements.

Tax increment money collected in the district can be spent anywhere in the district, Highlands said. The intent is to utilize increment generated by improvements made elsewhere to help an area in need of redevelopment. The district expansion along Central Avenue will generate little tax increment revenue because many of the parcels are residential, which are excluded from the calculation by law, he said. By adding this area to the district, the city can combine the resources of both the city and Redevelopment Commission to fund improvements. 

"Sections of Central Avenue west of Willowcreek Road do not meet modern standards. Much of the older development on our city's west side was constructed before Portage was incorporated and before the widespread use of urban design principals. As a result, the roads are not wide enough, sidewalks are non-existent or in disrepair and drainage is an issue," Highlands said.

The Central Avenue expansion includes the former Garyton School, owned by the Portage Township School Corp. Highlands said the school district approached the city to purchase the building, which is vacant, because it would be too costly to repair the building.

The city would buy the property at a minimal cost, demolish the building and make the land available for redevelopment, possibly for the construction of quality, starter homes.
The expansion area along Central Avenue is also within the city's Central Avenue West project, aimed to construct improvements along the city's western corridor. That project is currently in its design phase. Highlands said there are no plans to acquire residential properties, other than rights of ways for necessary improvements along Central Avenue unless willing sellers come forward.

"Our current plans are to acquire additional right of way, if necessary, along Central Avenue to make way for road modernization, sidewalks, lighting upgrades and bike paths. We feel that these improvements will result in added value to the homeowners along Central Avenue and improve the quality of life on the west side," he said. Highlands said the area along Industrial Avenue, accessed from Ind. 149, is in need of public improvements. There is no public infrastructure or utilities in the area which is home to light industry. By making the improvements, it will allow present businesses to expand or attract new businesses.

While the area does include rights of way along Samuelson Road and Portage Avenue, Highlands said there are no plans for those roadways. State law requires areas of a TIF district to be linked. The rights of way along those roadways are being used as that link.

The proposed expansion is expected to go to the City Council at its Oct. 2 meeting. If approved, it will return to the Redevelopment Commission for final approval.


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6070 Central Ave
Portage, IN 46368
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