Lexington Needs What Cincinnati Has

August 31, 2016 | posted by Clive Pohl
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lexOne of the lessons that we denizens of capitalism are learning, however slowly, is that planning and investment in the distant future is an imperative. It is now more apparent than ever that reckless consumption through short-sighted decision making in building design and construction may save a dime up front but breaks the bank over time. Our children will pay the price if we are unwilling or unable to get beyond “talking the talk” and, at long last, “walk the walk”.

As an architect with over 25 years of experience in design, planning, and construction I offer the following observations:

1.  Money talks: It is widely recognized in design and planning circles that increasing density via pedestrian friendly, livable urban environments must be encouraged and that doing “the right thing” is not incentive enough. Even in the best of times building owners and jurisdictions need clear financial incentives. After years of recession this key point could not be more critical.
2.  LEED walks: The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification process provides a credible mechanism to minimize short sighted choices in the design and construction process. When one encounters the plaque on a certified building you can be confident that it stands for third party verification of responsible stewardship. It represents a reduction in the cost of health care (by minimizing exposure to toxins), a reduction in the cost of thermal comfort (by minimizing energy consumption), and a reduction in the depletion of our natural resources – to reference just a few components of LEED’s comprehensive program. It represents an elevated awareness on the part of the entire design and construction team and holds us ALL to a higher standard and a longer view.

So, how do we accomplish these seemingly impossible objectives as part of an informed long range vision?

Lexington needs what Cincinnati has: a successful incentive program to encourage reinvestment in the urban core and job creation through responsible building renovation and new construction. Cincinnati’s Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) Tax Abatement Program encourages LEED Certification by offering up to 15 years of tax relief (with higher levels of certification resulting in more relief).

Implemented in 2007 and, after careful examination, amended and re-adopted in January 2013, the CRA Program is making money for the city and encouraging owners to invest more in their property.

In February of this year an email survey of property owners who received CRA Residential Tax Abatement between 2011 and 2013 confirmed that the program is working to encourage new construction and renovation in the city limits. The following testimonials (among others) were recently made public:

“As a long time (20 yr) resident in the city, there have been temptations to migrate to the ‘burbs’ only for the desire for a brand new, affordable home. The abatement made the decision to renovate and obtain “new” in my old home a much more enticing option. Keep these options coming to keep residents in the city limits!’
“The CRA tax abatement program is a tremendous tool to promote redevelopment and new construction of the city housing stock. The program should be advertised more aggressively by the city. Advertising the program to the outlying suburbs could encourage empty nesters to relocate into the city.”
“Myself and my close friends who have built LEED certified homes as a part of this program would not have built a home in the City of Cincinnati without this program. It was a great experience and has been highly beneficial to myself and my family. I have and will continue to refer this program to friends and colleagues.”

In the coming weeks I will be assembling the information needed to “make the case” for Lexington’s version of the CRA Tax Abatement Program. With the help of Sanyog Rathod of SOL Development (a Cincinnati based architect and Certified Green Rater for the LEED for Homes program) we will attempt to answer the first and most important question: can we afford it?

Stay tuned.

Posted on 31 August, 2016 in: News

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