City targets downtown housing

The Clinton City Council approved another downtown-centric incentive at its meeting this week, with the hope of attracting second-story housing by waiving water, sewer and fire line connection fees associated with such units.

The City of Clinton has added yet another incentive aimed at attracting downtown development — this time second-floor residential housing.

The National Main Street Center cites second-story residential as the number one key for the increased prosperity and vitality of historic downtowns and, in a continuing effort to “strengthen its downtown core and encourage growth,” the Clinton 2035 Comprehensive Plan also identifies mixed-use development as one of the top priorities for the future.

The Clinton Main Street Program Economic Restructuring Committee has been working with Planning staff in recent months to create a set of incentives that will work for the downtown and Planner Lyden Williams this week presented the proposed Mixed-Use Residential Development Incentive Program.

The program subsequently received the unanimous approval of City Council.

“Currently there are more than 30 properties in the downtown with unutilized or under-utilized second story space which could be converted to residences,” Williams told Council members. “That’s about $6 million of potential development and housing for 150 people. We feel that encouraging and incentivizing this type of development is key to realizing the potential of our downtown.”

Through the program, the city will waive water, sewer and fire line connection fees associated with the creation of residential units that are part of a mixed-use residential project within the Downtown Special Tax District, with a cap of $5,000.

Any fees above $5,000 would be the responsibility of the property owner/developer.

Above all, the program is aimed at encouraging mixed-use development to provide for new commercial and residential uses. A mixed-use center is defined as a building or area that blends a combination of residential, commercial, cultural or institutional uses into a single structure or area.

“The development of these types of units will increase property values, patronization of downtown businesses and the profile and density of downtown Clinton,” Williams remarked.

He also pointed to the return on investment, illustrating that it would take minimal time for the city to recover the cost of the waived fees through the increased property tax revenue.

For a large downtown project (eight apartments), the city would get its money back in roughly seven months, while fees for a smaller project would be paid for in about two and a half years, he said.

“I think if you consider the impact of the people living there and their money being spent downtown, as well as minimum utility cost and the property tax (revenue) increase, the city can expect a very good return,” the city planner said.

In order to be eligible, according to the program, those new residential units must be in the upper floors of an existing commercial building that is in the downtown district. The first floor of the structure must be either occupied by a commercial use, available for lease for a commercial use or under construction for a commercial use at the time of application submission.

Units for which fees are waived must be used for residential purpose for no less than three years.

“If you choose to approve this grant,” Williams said to Council during his presentation, “we will have one of the best (incentive programs) in the state in terms of being all-encompassing and encouraging all kinds of development in some way.”

Along with the now-approved Mixed-Use Residential Development Incentive Program, the city also has in its repertoire the Facade Grant Incentive Program, the Utility Incentive Program and the Economic Tax Incentive Grant.

The facade incentive is a matching grant to assist with the cost of facade improvements for downtown commercial buildings, with a maximum of $5,000 per project, while the utility incentive assists new or relocating businesses to the tune of up to $1,200 per new business by remitting utility charges after one year of operation at a new location.

The tax incentive grants back property tax increases resulting from downtown redevelopment to property owner for a five-year period. There is no max on that grant.

Williams pointed to the newest incentive as a possible catalyst for housing in the downtown.

“We feel and the Economic Restructuring Committee feels that this will really help capture the momentum for this type of development,” said Williams.

Clinton-Sampson Planning Director Mary M. Rose, who serves as the Clinton Main Street manager, echoed those thoughts, saying it was another tool now at the city’s disposal for attracting investment in the heart of Clinton.

“The support and approval of this and the three other downtown development incentives have provided staff the tools with which to recruit new business, encourage residential development and bring improvements downtown Clinton,” she concluded.