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Council approves 30-year exemption for residential development in former Macy's HQ

Former Macy's HQ office building
Bill Rinehart
/
WVXU

Cincinnati council voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a 25-year property tax exemption for a 300-plus unit residential development Downtown. The housing will be on several floors of the former Macy's headquarters building on West 7th.

City officials say the development will not happen without the incentive. The project will include 53 studio apartments, 219 one-bedroom units, and 66 two-bedroom units, with rents priced at 80-120% of area median income (sometimes called "workforce" or "market-rate" housing):

  • Studio: $1,350/month
  • 1 BR: $1,550/month
  • 2 BR: $2,150/month

The agreement doesn't include any capital dollars from the city; it exempts the property tax on improvements to the building for 30 years, in exchange for 30 years of payments to public schools and the streetcar fund.

The Budget and Finance Committee voted unanimously Monday to approve the deal, with all council members praising the agreement.

"We have an empty skyscraper and administration has said that there has been no corporations or office tenants that have shown interest in in the space," said Liz Keating. "So we are going to end up keeping an empty skyscraper, or adding 480 people that are going to be living and working within the city [who] can walk around, support all of our small businesses and restaurants and arts organizations within this area."

The exemption would save developers about $10.8 million over 25 years. In exchange, city officials estimate a public benefit of more than $15 million.

The development agreement is a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) exemption for 30 years, but developers will pay the full property tax amount for the final five years of the agreement; rather than sending those payments through the typical millage, the city will keep the excess revenue — a total of about $2.1 million.

For the full 30 years, developers will make annual payments to Cincinnati Public Schools ($272,921 a year, about $8.2 million total) and VTICA, the fund for streetcar maintenance and operation ($124,510 a year, about $3.7 million total).

City officials estimate new (or retained) income tax from residents of the new housing to be up to $1 million.

Read more about the development agreement below:

Updated: January 26, 2022 at 5:27 PM EST
Corrected: January 25, 2022 at 2:51 PM EST
The headline has been updated to clarify that the tax break on this property is a rebate, not an abatement. While both offer tax exemptions, in the case of a rebate, a portion of the funds generated from the development go to the city and the developer gets the balance back.