Middletown approves tax breaks for developer renovating multiple downtown buildings

Middletown City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved granting eight Community Revitalization Area tax abatements for a Springfield man who is renovating and updating several residential and retail properties in downtown Middletown

However, some council members questioned if an unfair advantage would be created by approving the request for the 10-year, 100 percent abatements on the improvements to the properties Todd Fisher purchased.

In his applications, he estimated that $25,000 would be spent on each of the properties for the improvements such as new electric, plumbing, painting, roofing and HVAC systems, etc. The properties are located on Central Avenue, Curtis and Clark streets.

Fisher told council said he’s not a “flipper” and that he is fixing the properties incrementally depending on what needs to be done. In addition, he has tenants in a number of the apartments he has acquired and said he’s been able to increase the rents as the improvements have been completed.

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He told council he has already spent nearly $140,000 in improvements that include roofing and replacing HVAC systems from the 1980s.

“My goal is to get the properties looking good, get them rentable and get tenants in there and keep improving the buildings so I can get better rent,” he said.

Fisher purchased three groups of parcels for a total of $360,000. Five properties were transferred to him on July 31, 2018 four properties were transferred on July 11 and and six parcels were transferred on June 20.

He said some of the apartments have rents of $200 per month plus paid heat and water. Fisher said after the improvements he hopes to get rents up to $450 to $525 which is closer to market rate for apartments.

Councilman Steve Bohannon, who is also chairman of the Middletown Real Estate Investors Group that represents the city’s landlords, questioned why the rents could not be higher.

He said he personally felt that this was an unfair advantage over the landlords who have been in the city for years. Bohannon said if the city is trying to change the dynamic of downtown and said these are not market rates. Bohannon said he’s talked to older people who would like to live downtown but do not want to live in a $500-per-month apartment but would want something more substantial with rents over $1,000 month.

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Councilman Joe Mulligan said he understands the $25,000 number on the application and that there would be more investment in the properties after hearing Fisher’s answers.

“I understand council’s concerns on it. But ultimately I think what Mr. Fisher did is that he applied under the guidelines that are currently in place and if we’re now in a situation now where we’re kinda changing the goal posts on him, I think it will make it more difficult in the long run in attracting new development. I applaud you for what you’re trying to do and we’ll do our best to help you.”

Mayor Larry Mulligan agreed adding that the buildings are mixed use, and the work has the opportunity to create jobs and that sometimes, the residential side can help the commercial side.

City Manager Doug Adkins also raised concerns about moving the goal posts and said it would be up to council to revisit the investment thresholds for future projects.

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