Downtown Bowling Green’s Tax Increment Financing District has made it to the $150 million signature level, meaning that the TIF will eventually start getting in tax revenues resulting from the new investment in downtown.

The state’s certification of that signature status was announced at this morning’s Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce coffee hour at Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center, one of the major projects that led to that investment level. Other projects highlighted today included Hitcents Park Plaza with its office space and now plans for seven new restaurants, The Medical Center-WKU Health Sciences Complex, Western Kentucky University’s Alumni Square, Bowling Green Municipal Utilities and the Bowling Green Ballpark. Together the projects represent about $114 million that has been spent in the 330-acre TIF that runs from Western Kentucky University to The Medical Center and the Barren River along a defined corridor.

Doug Gorman, chairman of the Warren County Downtown Economic Development Authority, which oversees the TIF, told the crowd of 300 or so that this month the state certified the TIF reaching its $150 million investment. “We actually are approaching $185 million now,” he said. Later Gorman said that master developer Tommy Gumm, founder and CEO of Alliance Corp., estimates that when all of the development planned is complete, the investment will exceed $250 million.

Prior to the breakfast, Gorman said they still are waiting for the state to determine what the amount of the first tax rebate check will be. The state calculates the number based on the incremental growth that has taken place in the TIF area since it was formed in 2008. A percentage of taxes spent on infrastructure development, sales taxes on items sold by new developments and on the occupational taxes for new jobs created within the TIF will be returned to the area. Those refunds will help pay back bonds that have been sold to build various projects.

Ryan Gates, general manager and COO of the Bowling Green Hot Rods, is about to finish its fifth season at the ballpark that has averaged 200,000 spectators a season and 3,000 for each game.

“This year we welcomed our millionth visitor,” Gates said.

Gates noted that all the development in the TIF is driving more people downtown.

Clinton Mills, CEO of Hitcents that occupies the parking garage wrap called Hitcents Park Plaza, hopes that his family’s plans to further develop the wrap will make downtown even more of a destination. The family’s MR Group Inc. will install seven restaurants and a banquet room in the wrap, something that would not have been possible had it not been for the advantage of building within the TIF, Mills said.

SKyPAC Executive Director Tom Tomlinson said his facility’s 18 months of operation have exceeded all expectations in terms of number of spectators and finances. More than 90,000 people have seen shows or concerts at the facility and another 20,000 children have participated in activities.

Tomlinson said that education is one area that will continue to grow, which is why the organization’s foundation recently purchased Taylor’s Chapel AME Church.

This week SKyPAC listed for lease its corner lot at Seventh and College streets.

“We realize that is a prime piece of real estate and is a way to generate income on an annual basis,” Tomlinson said prior to the meeting.

Tomlinson hopes that the quarter acre lot would be used as something to complement SKyPAC. The listing sign suggests retail or office space.

He doesn’t know if anyone has expressed interest in the site yet, as all of those calls would go to Realtor Neal Turner.

The price of the lease will vary because interested parties may want SKyPAC to build something to suit a tenant’s needs or they may decided to build on their own, Tomlinson said. Either way SKyPAC will ensure that it is a design and use that will complement its building.

Whether intentionally or not, Tomlinson told the crowd, the TIF has created a place where creative people want to come to work, visit or be entertained. Those people will encourage others to do the same.

Mills noted that the development has already worked as a recruitment tool for his company to bring in new employees from three other states.

Nearly 600 people attended Thursday’s grand opening of The Medical Center-WKU Health Sciences Complex. John Bonaguro, dean of the College of Health and Human Services, and Jean Cherry, executive vice president of Commonwealth Health Corp., said construction of the building would not have been possible without the unique cooperation between the two and the TIF. Both predicted that the two groups would have future collaborations on other projects.

Rick Dubose, the new executive director for WKU’s Alumni Association and assistant vice president for Alumni Relations, credited former director Donald Smith with the vision to get the building done.

“It’s the house that Donald build,” he said.

If not the best, it is one of the best alumni centers in the South, Dubose said.

“It’s a building alums can be proud of,” he said. “And the whole building is open for rent.”

While BGMU is not open for rent, the facility was constructed in part to better serve the public, General Manager Mark Iverson said.

The previous 50 year-old building was due for major systems upgrades and remediation for mold, radon and a leaky roof. Those issues could have been dealt with but the space that constrained both customers and workers could not be, Iversons said.

For residents who haven’t had a chance to see the new building yet, there is an open house planned for 11 a.m. Sept. 12.

Sam Freeman of Remedy Vapor moved to Bowling Green from Las Vegas a few months ago. So far he likes what he sees in downtown Bowling Green. Freeman was pleased to hear that the TIF had reached its goal.

Bryan Henfest had a longer perspective on the changes.

“I can’t believe how much it’s grown in 21 years,” Henfest of Potter Children’s Home said. “The development here is drawing a lot more people downtown, and downtown looks a lot better.

“I think it’s great,” he said of the $150 million investment status.

— Robyn L. Minor covers business, environment, transportation and other issues. Follow her at twitter.com/bowserminor or visit bgdailynews.com.

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(1) comment

They Call Me Bad News

Where are all the local experts who had 1,001 reasons why the TIF plan would never work? Still working the drive-thru at Burger King, I guess.

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