Pittsfield mayor seeks continued tax benefit for Beacon Cinema
PITTSFIELD — Mayor Linda M. Tyer is proposing that a Tax Increment Financing agreement benefitting the Beacon Cinema owner be extended for another five years.
"The Beacon Cinema is a unique downtown historic landmark and serves as a catalyst for increased pedestrian engagement in the downtown area," Tyer said in a letter to the City Council, which on Tuesday voted to send the proposal to its Finance Committee for review.
The mayor said the restoration of a formerly distressed building on North Street and opening of a state-of-the-art cinema has drawn people to the downtown, boosting surrounding businesses as well.
The proposal, which would involve a real estate and personal property tax reduction agreement through fiscal 2021, would amend a similar TIF agreement that has been in effect since fiscal 2008 but is due to expire next month.
Several supporters were on hand Tuesday to urge the council to approve the proposal, including Jesse Cook-Dubin, president of Downtown Pittsfield Inc., and the organization's executive director, Kristine Hurley.
Ty Allen Jackson called the Beacon Cinema "a flagship in Berkshire County," one he often visits, and "an important place if we want to attract millennials" to the city.
Warren Dews, vice president of audience development at New England Newspapers Inc., which owns The Berkshire Eagle, noted that the cinema has exceeded employment and investment goals cited in the original nine-year TIF agreement and called the businesses "an anchor" for the downtown.
The tax request is a modest one, Dews said, adding, "It's common sense that, if a place like the Beacon fails, Pittsfield will be soon to follow." He said he hopes to see the theater still in operation 30 years from now, "because we supported it."
According to a letter to the mayor from Janis Akerstrom, the city's Community Development director, when the TIF was created it was limited to nine years because the Downtown Pittsfield Economic Opportunity Area had a life span that would end on June 30, 2016. However, since that time, the state Legislature has eliminated a requirement that such projects had to be located in an EOA to qualify for a TIF.
She wrote that under the TIF, North Street Cinema committed to an investment of $11.9 million at the 47-55 North St. building and to create 25 full-time-equivalent jobs. As of Dec. 31, 2015, the business reported $20.2 million had been invested and 30 full-time-equivalent jobs created.
The proposed new TIF agreement calls for real estate and personal property taxes to be forgiven at a declining percentage over five fiscal years, down to 10 percent in the final year. A projected $41,978 in real estate tax and $30,252 in personal property tax is estimated to be forgiven over the period, according to paperwork submitted to the council.
The projected total real estate tax to be paid is estimated at $225,191 over five years, and personal property tax to be paid is estimated at $72,276 over the five years.
The council Finance Committee will review the TIF proposal at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.
Also Tuesday, the council approved a 20-year tax agreement with East Acres Solar, which is developing a 3.6 megawatt solar generation facility on former YMCA Ponterril camp property off East Acres Road, near Pontoosuc Lake.
Unlike with a TIF, the agreement covers the amount of taxes to be paid on personal property — primarily the solar panels — but not real estate taxes on the 77-acre property. The solar array is expected to be located on about 22 acres.
What the agreement does is specify the exact payment owed for personal property in each year, which averages around $50,000 each year and totals $960,558 for the 20 years, according to paperwork submitted to the council.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.
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