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City officials consider tax abatement for downtown vacancies - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

City officials consider tax abatement for downtown vacancies

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SHREVEPORT, La. -
    When you're driving around downtown Shreveport, you can't help but notice them. Huge, empty, high-rise buildings just lining street curbs. But there's some help for those looking to rehab those big spaces while others sit idle. As city officials work to restore one empty downtown building we look at other efforts to save other empty buildings, just like this one, that may have stalled out. 

    It's an incentive for people who are going to come and spend a lot of money rehabing a building. Which basically holds your property taxes for five years." Liz Swaine, the director for the Downtown Development Authority is talking about the restoration tax abatement program. It's been in law books for years and city officials are looking to use it to entice developers. Swaine says the idea is a win-win. "So the city is not giving you anything, they're simply saying we really appreciate the fact that you put a lot of money into this building and we're going to let you recoup some of that money over the next 5 years by not increasing your property taxes."

    City council officials are considering applying the tax abatement program here, on the petroleum building in downtown Shreveport. Supporters of the measure argue that it promotes economic activity, job opportunities and improves the tax base for the city. But there are plenty of other properties in the city of Shreveport just sitting by the side of the road, seemingly untouched or creating opportunities for public nuisances.

There are 4 vacant buildings that owners won't sell but have no plans for in downtown Shreveport. 9 vacant buildings aren't under construction just yet, where owners have future plans. 10 empty buildings downtown are for sale right now. One of those buildings is the old Waggoner Federal building. "It's owned by the Louisiana College. It's currently for sale, there are people that are looking at it but we haven't heard that there are any takers."

    And here lies the petroleum tower which has been vacant for years but officials say there may be new life coming to the area. "The developer wants to do upscale residential, potentially a boutique type hotel, and maybe even something really special like a micro-brewery in the bottom of it. That's all still open to discussion so it may change a little bit, but one thing is for sure, the developer is interested in rehabing that building and it will be a multi million dollar project."

    Swaine says it's imperative that the city remains competitive. "We're competing with cities all over the country who give great incentives for that sort of thing so any way we can save that developer money, it encourages them to move their project to downtown Shreveport."

There are at least 3 buildings owned by the city and parish that are vacant as well. None are for sale but officials are trying to figure out how to make them available for development.

    For more information about the Downtown Development Authority http://downtownshreveport.com/

    For more on the Shreveport City Council http://www.shreveportla.gov/index.aspx?nid=201
    
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