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Factory outlets expanding, seeking tax incentives

[03/07/03]Vicksburg Factory Outlets is expanding to add nine shops and is seeking tax incentives worth $1.1 million from local governments.

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen heard a proposal Thursday for tax increment financing and set a public hearing for 10 a.m. March 25. The Warren County Board of Supervisors will also be asked to set a public hearing for March 24, said Chris Gouras of Gouras Urban Planning Consultants Inc.

Margaret Gilmer, outlet center manager, said new shops will include Vanity Fair, Rack Room Shoes, a new Osh Kosh B’Gosh, a children’s recreation complex, a new linen store, a new housewares store and two new apparel stores.

“We’re really excited about this,” Gilmer said.

The center, off Clay Street near Interstate 20, was built in 1995 with the help of tax increment financing. It opened with 27 stores and now has 30.

Tax increment financing, or TIF, is a financing tool local governments can use to encourage certain types of developments. In the program, property taxes and other taxes that increase as a result of development can be pledged to repay bonds or loans for infrastructure improvements.

The bonds for the outlet center will be used to fund drainage improvements, extending the access road and water and sewer work. The total expansion will cost about $8.4 million and will be built on eight acres to the west of the current center, Gouras said.

“We hope we are probably about 60 days out from breaking ground, and we hope to have the first section done by late summer or fall,” Gilmer said.

Tax increment financing was used in projects including River Region Medical Center, Wal-Mart SuperCenter and the now-vacant Kmart property. It was being used for up to $900,000 in infrastructure improvements for the Home Depot site off South Frontage Road.

“This administration has been working very diligently not only with our own plans, but also out in the private sector soliciting businesses to our community,” Mayor Laurence Leyens said.

Leyens, who has attended several retail trade shows, also hinted that other developments are on their way.

“There are going to be some very major announcements in the near future,” he said.

The outlet store project is expected to generate an additional $44,000 in real and personal property taxes and an additional $233,000 in sales taxes to the city and $42,000 in real and personal property taxes to the county. It is also expected to create 250 new full-time and part-time jobs with an annual payroll of $3.5 million, according to Gouras’ figures.

The cost of repaying the $1.1 million debt for the improvements through the TIF will be about $105,000 annually. The city’s share will be about $75,000, and the county’s, about $30,000.

The rest of the new taxes generated from the project will go into the city’s and county’s general funds. School taxes, which are not pledged in the TIF agreement, are also expected to increase $58,000 a year.

Today, total taxes on the eight acres including city, county and school are about $2,500 annually.

In other matters the city board:

Set a public hearing for 10 a.m. Tuesday for brownsfield grants through the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to clean up environmentally contaminated sites.

Discussed a landscaping project in Lakewood subdivision.

Authorized the preparation and submittal of a grant application to the U.S. Department of Justice for up to $3,000 for armored vests.

Authorized the preparation and submittal of a grant application to the National Recreation Park Association for $5,000 to fund tennis programs.

Approved the purchase of warming carts for the Vicksburg Convention Center. The carts cost $10,376.

Approved the claims docket.

The city board will meet again at 10 a.m. Monday and at 10 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall Annex.