JACKSON, MI – Jackson’s Francis Street used to bustle with record shops, laundromats and grocery stores.
But the commercial corridor has declined, and city officials want to bring it back.
A proposal discussed this week could help revitalize the street now known as Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Arlene Robinson, the vice mayor and Ward 1 representative, said Friday.
Jackson City Council held a public hearing on Tuesday, Aug. 11, about its proposed creation of an MLK Drive Corridor Improvement Authority, or governing tool used to address economic growth in a specific area. The authority would generally cover MLK Drive between E. Mason Street in downtown to E. South Street, at the city limits.
Michigan created the economic development tool in 2018 to address funding improvements in commercial corridors outside the main downtown of a community, the city previously said. The corridor improvement authority would use tax increment financing – a method of freezing tax value for a number of years, capturing the rising tax revenue and reinvesting it – to make improvements within a designated area.
Proposed improvements are likely to include more commercial businesses, mixed use developments, housing, landscaping, infrastructure and pedestrian access, according to the city.
The proposal is one of the city’s plans to push development and growth beyond the downtown. Mayor Derek Dobies announced the idea in the 2020 State of the City address in February.
“It is something that I think this neighborhood should take pride in and be excited that there’s gonna be a stretch,” Robinson said. “There’s one on the west side, there’s one on the east side, there’s one on the north side but this side of town, we’ve kind of been just kind of sitting there for quite a while and things started to decline. And now, this should bring that back.”
Some residents are worried the abilities are too broad, voicing their concerns during the public hearing on Aug. 11. Several residents said they fear an increase in taxes, but the proposed ordinance expressly denies the authority to borrow money and issue bonds and does not allow the authority to levy assessments as part of the funding strategy for improvements.
If approved, the board would consist of an administrator from the city, such as City Manager Jonathan Greene, and nine other volunteer members approved by City Council.
“While everyone would love to see improvements, the creation of an un-elected board of nine people not directly answerable to the voting public concerns me greatly,” a Ward 1 resident said during public comment.
But officials said the authority isn’t about taxation.
“This creates no new taxes,” Councilman Jeromy Alexander, Ward 3, said during the Aug. 11 meeting. “This works to actually keep any taxes paid very locally. Anyone that’s already paying taxes, now those taxes will specifically help that corridor that they’re located on.”
Read the proposed ordinance here, beginning at page 44.
City Council must now wait until October to vote on a resolution and ordinance establishing the creation of an authority, which would officially begin the establishment process.
“City administration is looking forward to getting the authority going after it meets the needed approvals from the City Council,” City Spokesman Aaron Dimick said in an email. “As our downtown area sees continued success, we want to spread that success into our neighborhoods.”
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