Centerville using incentive program to improve city’s infrastructure

Centerville’s Community Reinvestment Area program is an important economic development tool, but one that is under-used, according to city officials.

They hope that more home and business owners will take advantage of it in order to improve the city’s aging housing infrastructure and draw in jobs and economic opportunities.

A CRA allows a business or homeowner to make an improvement to their property by through a tax abatement for 10, 12 or 15 years on the additional property tax value that the improvement generates.

The program provides temporary property tax relief on increased value from major renovations of existing buildings and construction of new buildings.

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It’s a short-term investment that benefits the city and region long term, according to City Manager Wayne Davis.

Phil and Sharon Miller fully renovated their home between 2015 and 2019. The Centerville couple made improvements to existing space and added a second story. After construction was complete, they applied for and were granted a property tax abatement on the added value of their house through the CRA program.

“This is a great program that more people should take advantage of,” Phil Miller said.

Jim Gallagher has lived in Centerville for approximately 50 years and wishes he had known about the CRA program sooner.

“If I had known when we remodeled several years ago,” Gallagher said, “I certainly would have taken advantage of the opportunity.”

Gallagher now chairs Centerville’s CRA Housing Council.

“We need to get the word out. It’s a win-win for the community,” he said.

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Centerville currently has approximately 25 properties that are receiving CRA abatements, 14 commercial buildings and 11 residences.

“A renovation project does not have to be a major investment to qualify for the CRA program. The threshold for most residential improvements is $2,500. The CRA is truly an underutilized program,” Economic Development Administrator Michael Norton-Smith said.

Centerville's CRA is similar to other Ohio jurisdictions - Moraine, Miamisburg, West Carrollton and Springboro - according to Norton-Smith, using the economic tool to attract development with a short-term advantage that benefits the community with long-term gains.

The program has been around for 40 years in Centerville. In response to changes in the state legislation, city council expanded the program boundaries in 1998 and again in 2010.

Applicants who invest in the CRA and meet the program’s thresholds are eligible to receive the abatement.

“Projects like Allure and Gateway Lofts are eligible to receive CRA abatements, and these multi-million dollar catalytic projects cause ripple-effects throughout the community and increase the value of surrounding properties,” Norton-Smith said.

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Residential properties are eligible if they are at least 25 years of age and the owners do not have zoning or property maintenance issues. Roughly half (44%) of the active abatements are residential home owners who have invested in their homes, which allows the city to improve its housing stock and protect it from deterioration.

Most commercial and industrial properties are eligible, regardless of age, unless the city has specifically excluded them. Cornerstone, for example, is an exception that was not included in the 2010 expansion.

In 2011, then-Mayor Mark Kingseed referred to the program as “a catalyst for investment and reinvestment,” and that has proven true. For example, the property where Allure now sits was vacant for eight years after Showcase Cinemas closed in 2006.

Allure is a $25 million multi-family project at the site of the demolished Showcase Cinemas Theater in Centerville. The project, which proposes over 300 one- and two-bedroom units, will also provide an easement to Cross Pointe Shopping Center.

Current Mayor Brooks Compton is pleased with the program’s progress.

“We are pleased the intended benefit sought by the CRA program is coming to fruition. By making this tool available for investment in Centerville, the city, its local partners and the region will be the beneficiaries long term,” Compton said.

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Randall Residence, Allure and Gateway Lofts are eligible for CRA abatements, but the city has not received applications from those properties. Property owners typically do not apply for the abatement until construction is complete.

Hill Properties LLC, the company building the Allure near Cross Pointe Shopping Center, said the CRA was a key component of its decision to move forward with a project in Centerville.

“It indicates to us that the city recognizes the importance of reinvestment within the community. Just as each of us occasionally repaints and redecorates our homes, the city sees that this is also needed on a larger scale on properties. The CRA creates an incentive to strive toward higher values,” Hills Properties VP of Planning, Zoning & Development Jim Obert said.

He added that the CRA provides Allure a much greater opportunity “to incorporate sustainable and higher-end design and finishes into the property, providing long-term value for both Allure and the City of Centerville.”

To find out if you qualify for the program, the form is available online at the city's website, or call the city at 937-433-7151.

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Five things to know about Centerville’s CRA Program:

1. The CRA program is meant to encourage redevelopment and reinvestment in the community.

2. Owners still pay property tax on the original value of their home or property, but they get an abatement on added value for a decade or more.

3. The threshold for most residential improvements is just $2,500.

4. Common improvements include renovations, additions, roofs, garages, and finished basements.

5. Other cities have similar programs, including Moraine, Miamisburg, Springboro and West Carrollton.

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