WINCHESTER — The city’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) has dialed back the incentive it’s willing to offer a Richmond-based firm interested in redeveloping the former Winchester Towers property.

On Tuesday, the EDA shaved a million dollars off its initial proposal of a $4.1 million tax break, and shortened the duration of the incentive from 15 years to 10 years.

Winchester Development Services Director Shawn Hershberger said Lynx Ventures Inc. has requested “a customized, project-specific incentive” to offset the expenses of building a proposed 167-unit apartment building with 8,000 square feet of commercial space, plus an adjoining parking garage with at least one space for each of the 167 apartments.

While the incentive would apply specifically to garage construction costs that could exceed $5 million, Hershberger said the tax break would benefit the entire project, which is being referred to as Cameron Square.

If Lynx receives the incentive, it plans to buy the EDA-owned Towers site at 200-214 N. Cameron St., as well as parcels owned by Glaize Properties Inc. at 220, 224, 302, 324 and 326 North Cameron Street and 101 and 110 East Fairfax Lane. The Towers site is empty, but the Glaize-owned buildings are still standing. Most are vacant, but two have been renovated and are occupied by Winchester Brew Works and NextHome Realty Select.

According to Lynx’s proposal, the previously renovated buildings would be incorporated into the new Cameron Square project, and the vacant buildings at the corner of Cameron and Baker streets would be converted into apartments. Additionally, the garage and mixed-use apartment tower would be designed to match the character of the existing Glaize properties.

Last month, the EDA voted to support an incentive package that would reimburse Lynx on a portion of the real estate taxes it would pay over a 15-year period.

The properties where the complex and garage would be built currently generate $11,609 in annual real estate taxes, but a building with 167 apartments and 8,000 square feet of retail or restaurant space would generate a projected $693,476 in real estate taxes per year. Lynx originally asked that any annual taxes above the $11,609 currently paid by the properties be reimbursed for 15 years, creating an incentive worth an estimated $4,115,851.

Hershberger said the EDA had second thoughts about sending what he characterized as an “open-ended” incentive to City Council, so members revisited the issue at Tuesday morning’s meeting. The authority voted unanimously to recommend approval of a revised package that would reduce the duration of the real estate tax reimbursements to 10 years, and capped the total value of the incentive at $3.1 million. Should that amount be reimbursed in less than 10 years, no further tax payments would be returned to Lynx.

Hershberger said it’s a solid financial package that would facilitate a major downtown redevelopment that is proposed to include dozens of select apartments specially priced for working-class individuals and families.

“The effort has been to incentivize this project in a way that is most palatable to the citizens of Winchester,” he said.

Hershberger stressed the only money that would be paid to Lynx comes from revenue that wouldn’t exist if Cameron Square was not built. Lynx would still be responsible for paying the $11,609 in annual real estate taxes currently generated by the site.

The final decision on the incentive is up to City Council. Hershberger said he plans to take the proposal and the EDA’s recommendation for approval to council’s work session on Tuesday.

Attending Tuesday morning’s EDA meeting in Rouss City Hall were Chairman Jeff Buettner and members Lauri Bridgeforth, Tim Painter, Cary M. Craig Jr., Douglas Toan and Addie Lingle.

— Contact Brian Brehm at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com

(1) comment

JEngels

What an outrageous giveaway. Why should they get anything?

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