Macon Mall: Self-taxing improvement district delayed until 2015

jgaines@macon.comApril 15, 2014 

biz_review_mall

The Macon Mall as pictured in December 2012.

BEAU CABELL — bcabell@macon.com Buy Photo

Owners of Macon Mall are postponing for a year their attempt to create a self-taxing district along Eisenhower Parkway.

Mark Stevens, regional development officer for mall owner Hull Storey Gibson, said Tuesday the legal requirement to get majority approval from affected commercial property owners and advertise the creation of a governing board within a few weeks couldn’t be met, but the idea isn’t dead.

“We’re still going full steam. We’re moving ahead with it,” he said. “We’re not abandoning it by any stretch of the imagination.”

So far mall managers have received signed consent forms from owners of about 20 percent of the area’s commercial property value, Stevens said. They need approval from owners of 75 percent of the value, but Hull Storey Gibson is happy with the progress, he said.

“When we get two or three of the big ones, that’s going to really send it up,” Stevens said.

It’s also taking longer than expected to get approval from the national headquarters of some of the area’s big chain stores, he said.

“It turned out that some of the big players like Target, Wal-Mart and Best Buy, it’s hard getting to their corporate people,” Stevens said. Those companies are involved in similar districts elsewhere, but local management doesn’t have the authority to make that decision, he said.

“We’ll probably have to get on an airplane and fly to their corporate offices and sit down with the right person,” Stevens said.

The district, affecting land along Eisenhower from Interstate 475 to Pio Nono Avenue, would charge commercial property owners an extra property tax to pay for cleanup and improvements within the area -- more work than Macon-Bibb County can afford to do on its own.

The government is willing to take up the issue again when Hull Storey Gibson brings it back, County Manager Dale Walker said. Until then, the corridor is likely to stay about the same, he said via email.

“We will do business as usual and maintain it,” Walker said. “The Eisenhower Parkway will be groomed, but the beautification sought by the developers will not be possible at this time.”

Hull Storey Gibson has put a lot of money into renovating the mall since its 2010 purchase, and the company wants to revitalize and “rebrand” the surrounding area as Macon’s retail and educational corridor, company officials have said.

Stevens said Hull Storey Gibson already has put some money and effort into nearby improvements and legal work on the district. It’s possible that the company could do more work in the coming year, with the expectation of being repaid once the district is approved, Stevens said.

The plan is to add 5 mills to the tax rate of commercial property in the area. Residential land and property would be unaffected. Based on the mall’s taxable value of $7.4 million, Hull Storey Gibson itself would contribute almost $15,000 extra per year, according to the company’s research.

The taxing district would raise about $450,000 annually, according to Hull Storey Gibson estimates.

In late March the mall owners hoped to get approval from a simple majority of the designated corridor’s 110 commercial property owners approve, along with owners of 75 percent of the $225 million assessed value of the corridor’s properties. They acknowledged at a public meeting on the subject that it was an ambitious timeline.

Had all gone as originally planned, Macon-Bibb County commissioners would have voted to establish the district and appoint one person to a board of directors on May 6. Other board members would have been elected from among the affected property owners on June 9, and authorization to add the extra mills to the coming year’s property tax bills would have been sent to the Bibb County Tax Commissioner’s Office by the end of June.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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