The East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority is gearing up to apply for millions of dollars in federal New Markets Tax Credits when the U.S. Department of the Treasury opens the application process, expected in June.
It will be the first time the RDA has applied for the incentives since 2013, when its request was turned down for the third time in as many years.
It’s too soon to say how much the RDA will apply for this year, but several projects already outlined in master plans to redevelop Plank Road and develop two passenger rail stations will likely be among those the RDA identifies in its application as target recipients for investment, RDA President and CEO Chris Tyson says.
“You could use those as a basis,” he says. “If you start from a well-resourced, well-supported plan, you’re saying, ‘here is what the community has said it wants,’ which means there is going to be buy-in. It’s important to show Baton Rouge is united around these priorities and is willing to buy in.”
New Markets Tax Credits attract capital to low-income communities by providing private investors with a federal tax credit for investing in businesses or economic development projects located in economically underserved areas.
In 2009, the RDA received $60 million in NMTCs, which was a big win for the agency, then just one year old. It not only brought prestige but income, as the RDA made about 10% in fees for administering the tax credits program.
But three subsequent applications proved unsuccessful. Some argued it was because of the scattered way the agency had spread the first batch of credits around, investing $6.1 million in the ExxonMobil YMCA at Howell Place, $11.4 million in the YMCA at Americana, $11.7 million in the Hampton Inn and Suites downtown, and $17.5 million in Honeywell, which was expanding its facility in north Baton Rouge.
But others pointed out that the feds had changed the way it evaluated applications and had begun awarding more credits to rural areas, as opposed to inner cities, as well as to projects that were tied to larger redevelopment efforts.
Whatever the reason for the past disappoints, Tyson is ready to try again and hopes to use the current master plan for redeveloping Plank Road to tell a story about Baton Rouge, its needs and opportunities.
“There is a preference for communities that can tell a story through their projects and tie them to other investments and activities and some sort of plan,” he says. “That is where having a plan comes in handy.”
The RDA will retain a consultant to help with the application process and could know by late fall whether it will be awarded any.
“This would be extremely significant,” he says.