Nov 9, 2023 - News

Council to propose downtown fee for increased safety, cleanliness and homeless outreach

Photo: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Property owners in the Mile Square will start footing the bill for extra security, clean-up and homeless outreach once pandemic-era federal relief dollars run out next year.

Driving the news: The Indianapolis City-County Council is moving forward with a plan to create an economic enhancement district downtown to fund the services and pay for the operation of a housing hub at a new low-barrier homeless shelter.

What's happening: The proposal will be introduced at Monday's council meeting.

  • The Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee will discuss it Nov. 20 and the full council will consider it for final passage in December.

How it works: While the new fee will appear on property tax bills, it's not technically a tax.

  • Residential property would be charged a $250 annual fee.
  • All others — including apartments, hotels, office buildings and parking areas — would be charged about .17% of their assessed value.
  • If approved, the fee would start in 2025 and generate an estimated $5.5 million annually.
  • A governing board made up of a majority of downtown property owners would guide how the money is spent.

What they're saying: "The Mile Square faces the unique challenges of all large urban centers and an EED will allow for targeted investment to maintain our clean, safe, and beautiful downtown," said council president Vop Osili.

Catch up fast: The Indiana General Assembly paved the way for the new district in the budget bill passed earlier this year.

  • The budget also included a $20 million grant to open a low-barrier homeless shelter, which has fewer restrictions for entry than traditional shelters.
  • The city is kicking in another $12 million for the project, to be located on East Georgia Street near I-70 — just outside of the Mile Square.

Flashback: The city considered a similar measure in 2018 but met stiff opposition from some downtown property owners, particularly the Indiana Apartment Association.

  • Osili said the body is operating more transparently this time, to address any questions about why the fee is necessary or how the money will be spent, and involving property owners more in the process.

Between the lines: The post-pandemic landscape downtown is also different.

  • Many of the services that will be funded by the fee are currently in place through a pilot program operated by Downtown Indy, Inc. and paid for by the city with federal pandemic relief dollars.
  • If the fee isn't imposed, those services that downtown residents and business owners have seen in action would go away when the dollars run out next year.

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