This story was first published in Issue 02 of Traction magazine in March 2023.
If you have driven along Lincoln Way in downtown Ames between Clark and Kellogg avenues, you likely noticed the big open (and empty) lot. That is the future home of The Linc, a $150 million development that will feature retail and commercial spaces, residential living units, and a hotel and conference center.
First proposed in 2019, The Linc is moving forward after years of collaboration between the City of Ames, Hunziker & Associates of Ames, and private developer Christensen Development of Des Moines. In October 2022, the Ames City Council voted unanimously to move forward with the concept for the proposed development, with additional approvals required in the coming months.
“A transformational project of this scale requires years of collaboration between public and private sectors,” said Chuck Winkleblack of Hunziker & Associates. “It requires vision and a willingness to commit. With considerable work yet to do, we are fortunate to have wonderful partners working alongside us to help make this happen.”
The planning is not yet done for The Linc, but each step provides a clearer vision of what it will eventually become. As agreements are finalized and signed, more information will be released regarding which companies are committed to the project, including hoteliers, restaurants, and retail outlets. Underground utility construction is anticipated to take place in the latter part of 2023.
What is Tax Increment Financing (TIF)
Redevelopment is expensive. As a way to bridge the financial gap in a project of this magnitude the City of Ames will be asked to provide tax increment financing (TIF) for the project. According to the Iowa Department of Management, TIF is a financing mechanism primarily used for urban renewal. “It involves freezing the tax base (property values) within a designated area.” TIF districts divert property taxes created from increased property values in an area to subsidize development.
TIF allows local governments to invest in public infrastructure up-front and it incentivizes private investment. Local governments can then pay later for those investments by capturing the anticipated increase in tax revenues generated by the project. This is often seen in large-scale projects, such as The Linc.
The project is expected to bring in an estimated $52.4 million in property tax revenue over 20 years. As reported in the Ames Tribune in October 2022, the City of Ames is offering tax increment financing and would waive $42 million of that income from the developers’ property taxes and keep $10 million to build a public parking structure on the north side of the railroad tracks. This type of investment is a perfect example of public and private partnerships coming together to create a generational project that will serve the community for decades.
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Centrally and conveniently located in the heart of the Midwest and Iowa, Ames is known for its healthy, stable economy, flourishing cultural environment, and the world-renowned Iowa State University.
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