At its June 13 work session, the Eugene City Council approved an ordinance amending the Downtown Urban Renewal Plan to support four specific downtown projects: a high-speed fiber network, a permanent improved space for the Farmers’ Market, the redevelopment of the former Lane Community College Downtown Center on 11th and Willamette, and Park Blocks and open space improvements. The amendment:
• makes the four specific projects eligible for urban renewal funds;
• outlines a required public input and hearing process before the Agency Board can take action to fund the projects (except high-speed fiber).
• increases the spending limit (the amount that can be spent on the projects) to $19.4 million; and
• expands the district boundary by five acres to incorporate the eastern Park Block area and a portion of the City Hall block.
On May 23, the council held a public hearing on the ordinance to amend the Plan. Sixty individuals spoke at the public hearing. In addition, many people provided written comment. The amendment was presented to and supported by the Eugene Planning Commission and overlapping taxing districts including the Eugene 4J School District, Lane County, and Lane Community College.
On May 25, the council held a work session to review comments and made several revisions. The changes included ensuring community engagement would be completed before the Agency Board would approve amounts to be spent on individual projects and prohibiting of the use of urban renewal funds for the City Hall building or for a parking lot in the expansion area adjacent to High Street.
Urban renewal, or tax increment financing, is a tool used by municipalities to finance improvements and redevelop specific areas of a city by reinvesting the increase in the area's property taxes back into a specific district. When the district is created, the assessed value of property within the district is set (or “frozen”) and those taxes continue to go to the government (city, county, and school districts through the State). Any property value increase above that frozen amount is called the “increment.” The amount of taxes on the increased value (or “increment”) is what is collected across the city for the urban renewal district to use for redevelopment projects.
Eugene has used Downtown Urban Renewal to support significant downtown improvements, primarily public projects including the Hult Center, Eugene Public Library, Lane Community College Downtown Campus, and the LTD downtown station. The Downtown Revitalization Loan Program has provided almost $6 million in loans to support downtown redevelopment and leveraged over $26 million in private funds.