HELENA — The Memorial Park Apartments have been vacant since 2016, but that is changing thanks to the City of Helena Commission approving Tax Increment Financing to demolish the current structure.
"To be able to get to a point to get a blank space for this property to redevelop it is really a huge deal not just for the Railroad Tax Increment District but for the Downtown Tax Increment District since its right on its doorstep as well," said Ellie Ray, City Planner for Helena.
The recipient of the TIF funds in Bell Hotel LLC, and the business is working on an agreement with the property owner to redevelop the site to create a boutique hotel.
TIF funds are used to help redevelop, rehabilitate and revitalize communities.
Critics of the TIF funds going toward the demolition wonder why the TIF funds are going toward demolition and why the property owner is not paying for it themselves. Still, due to the six years of vacancy, there are hazards in the building that will lead to a high removal cost.
"Because there are a lot of environmental hazards in the existing structure the demolition is more than just a teardown of the structure, there is also a lot of environmental hazards that need to be abated, because of that it ramps up the cost of demolition, so you're looking at over 300 grand just to get this building torn down and treated properly with DEQ standards," said Ray.
The Board unanimously approved funding of $175,000, which amounts to the applicant providing a 52 percent match toward the demolition phase of the project.
Tax Increment Funds are not a new tax on property owners but a fund source from increases in taxes paid as property values increase.
Mayor Wilmot Collins says this new demolition and redevelopment in the Railroad Tax Increment District is what TIF funds are for.
"I think it is awesome because they're bringing in that hotel and developing that area, and that is the exact reason why we have TIF funding for something like that," said Collins.
Mayor Collins hopes that this new redevelopment will bring in more developers who would be interested in revitalizing Helena.
"I think developers should come around and look at what we are trying to do, look what we are trying to encourage, but this is just a start, so I am happy for this start, and I think we will go further," said Collins.
The demolition will begin come spring, and Bell Hotel LLC hopes to have the boutique hotel completed by 2023.