Yesterday at the Norfolk City Council informal session council and the people were given a presentation about potential economic incentives to attract business growth in the nascent Arts (& Design) District.
Norfolk isn’t the first city to see the arts, and an arts district, as a way to expand and enhance the city’s economic base. From the American Planning Association:
Economic development is enhanced by concentrating creativity through both physical density and human capital. By locating firms, artists, and cultural facilities together, a multiplier effect can result.
Here’s a video of the presentation. This part starts at about 38:30.
Here is a PDF with the slides. Much easier to read this way.
For starters, the arts district is already an Enterprise Zone, Real Estate Tax Abatement Zone, and is part of the Downtown Improvement District. So without the City doing anything new, there are existing special incentives to draw businesses to the neighborhood, and to help them grow. What the City is considering doing here is utilizing an opportunity enacted by the General Assembly in 2009 that allows cities to put in place unique economic incentives for the specific purpose of growing an arts district. To that end, the City Manager’s office is suggesting that the following types of businesses be excluded from receiving the new incentives: banks, real estate, medical, law offices, and chain restaurants.
The new bits would include a waiving of city fees; BPOL relief; business personal property tax relief; and an expanded matching commercial facade improvement grant up to $25,000 that can be used for things like landscaping, fencing, lighting, signage, and parking. These all would be available for any new creative businesses and any existing businesses expanding in a way that enhances the arts districtness of the area.
The state mandates that these incentives have a 10-year sunset clause so they won’t be around forever.
How much savings could this mean to a business that chooses the arts district? According to City projections, in some cases over $30,000. The business’ private investment would be 10 times that, but 30k is a nice little carrot.
All of this is still in the idea phase. Ultimately an ordinance would have to be passed to put it all into place. Until then, a brand new mural in the arts district, created by Elliott Moore Addesso and Norfolk Public School students!