Meridian moves ahead; Council backs interlocal agreement

By Rob Glidden
Staff Writer

The Greenway Commons project has secured the approval of both town and state officials for a “tax increment financing district” around the former Ideal Forging property, and now Meridian Development hopes their long-awaited work on the property can move forward by this summer.
The plan to remediate the contaminated property and turn into an area with roughly 250 condominium units and some retail space was approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission in 2007 and was welcomed with great enthusiasm by local officials. In the years since, however, the project has stalled as the developers sought funding assistance for the remediation work. Some buildings on the property were demolished in August 2011 but there has been very little activity since.
The proposal to create the special tax district had to be approved by the state legislature and endorsed by the Governor. The council also had to agree to an “interlocal” agreement, which it did unanimously Monday evening.
“It’s a very formal process,” said Meridian Principal Howard Schlesinger. “It allows us to share in taxes the way a municipality would share in taxes.”
The company originally hoped to secure a private loan to help finance the remediation process, which is expected to be a major expense. This did not yield much success, but eventually the project earned a $3 million dollar grant from Urban Development Action and a $1.5 million loan from the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD).
The tax increment financing (TIF) district will function for ten years once it meets certain conditions – either the completion of 50 units on the property or the four year anniversary of its creation, whichever comes first. Schlesinger said he expects 50 units to be done within four years. 75 percent of the taxes collected from the district will go towards paying back the DECD loan and the other 25 percent will go to the town.
“There is no financial obligation to the town to pay back any of these funds from the DECD loan,” Schlesinger said.
The DECD also has to approve the final plan, which could result in some minor changes.
“You’re probably tired of hearing this,” said Town Councilor Lou Martocchio, “but assuming the DECD cooperates, when will shovels hit the ground?”
Schlesinger responded that he expected the remediation work to begin within 60 to 90 days.
The TIF district is overseen by a five person board that includes Chamber of Commerce President Art Secondo, who reiterated the chamber’s support for the project during the council’s public hearing.
“We believe that the promise of tomorrow lies with this project,” he said. “We’ve been promised it will happen in the near future. People say downtown is at its peak, but it’s not and this project is what we’ve been waiting for.”

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