Portland properties may be added to waterfront TIF

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PORTLAND — Waterfront development plans and the accompanying infrastructure could benefit if two properties are added to a tax increment financing district.

On March 5, the City Council is expected to vote on adding the future WEX headquarters at Thames and Hancock streets, and three properties on Union Wharf, 230 Commercial St., to the Waterfront TIF district. The order had a first reading at the Feb. 21 council meeting.

“The added TIF districts would produce an estimated $495,000 annually, over and above the current estimated annual TIF proceeds at $540,000,” according to a Feb. 7 memo by City Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell.

Mitchell said Feb. 21 the additions to the TIF zone, created in 2002, do not include credit enhancement agreements that would return any tax revenues to developers.

TIFs allow a municipality to set aside increases in tax revenues for specific uses. Funds captured in the TIF can be used for projects that include pier and wharf improvements, street work and dredging.

Property values in TIF zones are also shielded from state property valuations that are used to determine school funding formulas. Adding the properties to the Waterfront TIF would shelter an additional $145,000 annually. Mitchell said the TIF already shelters $220,000 annually.

The new WEX headquarters is under construction on a portion of a former city parking lot. It was sold last August to Jonathan Cohen of Hancock LLC for $3.3 million.

The five-story multi-use building will be home to WEX in about a year. WEX, which plans to shift about 450 jobs from its headquarters at 22 Gorham Road in South Portland, will occupy about 90 percent of the four-story, 100,000-square-foot building.

The proprietors of Union Wharf, which is fronted by Sapporo restaurant, are adding 45,000 square feet of retail, office and restaurant space.

In 2010, councilors extended the TIF term to 2032, while also amending how the funds could be used and allowing credit enhancement agreements.

In his memo, Mitchell said city staff will also recommend adding unspecified properties to the TIF district in the future, on both the east and west ends of the waterfront.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

The new headquarters for WEX, under construction at Hancock and Thames streets, could be added to a TIF zone by city councilors March 5.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.