SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio -- Citing a good return on investment, the city has extended another six-month contract with a lobbying firm adept at securing funding and favorable legislation for the Van Aken project.
Since getting hired in 2009, the Hudson-based CJR Group is credited with turning $257,000 in payments from the city into $1.5 million in state and federal grants:
-- a $500,000 federal appropriation in 2010
-- a $500,000 state capital budget award in 2014
-- a $500,000 state capital budget award earlier this year
The legislation efforts included assistance in passing the "Refreshment Area Bill" in Ohio, creating districts where individuals are exempt from open container restrictions, eliminating the need for fenced-in drinking areas.
With offices in both Columbus and Washington D.C., the "consultants for advocacy services" are now going after unused federal earmark (previously designated) funds, ODOT funding and the latest Federal Transportation Bill.
At a rate of $3,500 a month for a total of $21,000, city officials noted that the six months do not necessarily have to be consecutive.
"It's not your standard contract, with a lot of flexibility and a good return on investment," noted Councilman Rob Zimmerman.
Led by RMS Investment Corp., the $90 million first phase of the Van Aken project is intended to transform an outdated shopping center area near the intersection of Chagrin Boulevard and Warrensville Center Road, turning it into a new downtown for Shaker Heights.
In other business at its July 25 meeting, City Council accepted the annual recommendations of the Cuyahoga County's Tax Incentive Review Council (TIRC) to continue existing development agreements for tax exemption and "payments in lieu of taxes," or PILOTs.
In 2016, the city expects to receive almost $800,000 in PILOTs toward project-related debt service of $1.35 million.
Debt service of $303,000 associated with the Chagrin Boulevard fire station and the remainder of about $248,000 will be paid out of the General Fund.
"The PILOTs should cover the debt service for all the public infrastructure built to support the private improvements and the fire station," Menesse said.
And as more PILOT payments come on line, the city's subsidy will be reduced accordingly.
This year's allocation is right in line with the $246,550 paid out of the General Fund in 2015 cover total debt service, which was an improvement over 2014.
There are five active development agreements under this program where PILOTs are being collected:
-- Sussex Court, where a developer tore down four houses and replaced them with 46 single-family attached townhouse units in 2005 for about $3.7 million, which sold out immediately.
-- The Avalon Station condominium development, which coincided with the 2008 Great Recession, "but with capital improvements made to the building, units are again beginning to sell," City Economic Development Director Tania Menesse noted in minutes of the June 16 TIRC meeting.
Avalon Station was actually "Phase I" of the Shaker Town Center development. The city earlier this year signed a Development & Use agreement with with Knex Home Builders to construct up to 70 townhomes for Avalon Station Phase II in 2017-18.
-- CVS, through Blue Water Capital Partners, which moved out of Shaker Town Center across Chagrin Boulevard in 2009.
-- Library Court Senior Housing, in 2010.
-- Compass Self-Storage, the newest addition in the old Blaushild Chevrolet dealership on Chagrin Boulevard, which will not see PILOT payments until next year for the second half of 2016.
Menesse also provided the TIRC with an overview of the Van Aken Tax Increment Financing for the Van Aken District that the city and Shaker schools have entered into.
PILOTs will not be collected on the Shaker Plaza TIF until 2017 and on the main development project until 2018 or 2019.
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