A local group wants to continue the red-hot development scene around the University of Memphis (U of M) with a tax deal that could bring $83 million to the area in the next 20 years.
The University Neighborhood Development Corp. (UNDC) told Memphis City Council members Tuesday that it hopes to create a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district around the area. The move would allow portions of state taxes collected there to be funneled back to the area, instead of going to the state. TIFs are primarily used in Tennessee to support large projects like Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid, conference centers, and more.
Officials from the UNDC said Tuesday they hope to use the future funds for infrastructure projects to make the area more attractive to students and developers. U of M president David Rudd told council members Tuesday, “I don’t know there is a more important investment than this one.”
“It is critical for us to improve the livability and walkability and the overall safety in that region to improve the residential environment at the U of M,” Rudd said.
The university’s growth rate jumped this year for the first time in seven years, Rudd said, up 3 percent. On top of that, Rudd said this year’s freshman class is 30 percent bigger than last year’s class, making it a “record freshman class.”
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland sat in with UNDC members during the council review of the project Tuesday. He said the success of the university has flowed onto Highland, between Southern and Poplar at least.
“What this does is takes that success, the increase in property taxes…and let’s us expand that success all the way to Park,” Strickland said. “If you go to south across the train tracks to Park, we’re not seeing that same success. It needs a shot of adrenaline, too.”
Council member Berlin Boyd like the proposal, too.
“I think this is awesome,” Boyd said.
The plan must first get approval from the Economic Development Growth Engine’s (EDGE) Industrial Development Board. If approved, it would need votes from the council and the Shelby County Commission before UNDC official could take the plan to Nashville for state approval.
Click the link below to see UNDC's presentation it gave to the council Tuesday.