Thursday, June 23, 2011


City approves $31M tax breaks for Thompson’s Pt. project
By Casey Conley
Jun 22, 2011 12:00 am

As expected, the city council on Monday unanimously approved tax breaks worth an estimated $31.4 million for developers of The Forefront, a mixed-use hotel, office and convention center project planned for Thompson’s Point.

In a separate vote, the council voted down a measure that would have capped the overall value of the tax breaks during the 30-year agreement. That vote failed 5-3 with councilors Dave Marshall, John Anton and Cheryl Leeman in the minority.

Approval of the tax-increment financing deal between the city and developers allows the city to retain roughly 46 percent of new property tax revenues generated from the $100 million development. Developers would keep 54 percent of that new property tax revenue, estimated at $31.4 million to the city’s $26.4 million over the life of the agreement.

Those figures are just estimates, and could change up or down based on future tax rates and the overall valuation of the property.

Not all of that $26.4 million will make it into the city’s general fund budget. Councilors Monday night voted to divert 25 percent of its share of annual revenues from the development into a special fund for transportation improvements. The city council didn’t make any decisions this week on how it would spend that money.

Thompson’s Point Development Co. has proposed building a convention center, two office buildings, a hotel, parking garage and concert venue on Thompson’s Point, in the city’s Libbytown neighborhood. The convention center could be configured into a 3,500-seat arena for the Maine Red Claws minor league basketball team.

Jon Jennings, a principal in the development group, says the project will become a true destination in Portland. He has said the concept is similar to the L.A. Live complex in downtown Los Angeles that's home to the Staples Center basketball arena and other entertainment venues.

Construction is scheduled to begin early next year and wrap up in late 2013.

Approval came less than two weeks after the tax break plan — the largest in the city’s history — was first unveiled to the public. The city council held a special meeting June 13 for the sole purpose of advancing the measure, a step no councilor could recall happening before.

Councilors accelerated the review largely because developers said throughout the process that the project might fall apart if the tax breaks weren’t approved before the end of June.

With the tax break question now settled, the project is heading to the planning stages. It is due to come before the planning board for a workshop on Tuesday, June 28 at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall.

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