November 10, 2023

City proposes new economic district to enhance downtown Indianapolis

A proposal to create a new taxing district in downtown Indianapolis will be introduced to the City-County Council next week.  - Ben Thorp/WFYI News

A proposal to create a new taxing district in downtown Indianapolis will be introduced to the City-County Council next week.

Ben Thorp/WFYI News

A proposal on next week's City-County Council agenda would create a new Economic Enhancement District in downtown Indianapolis, where property owners in the downtown core would pay a fee -- based on the assessed value of their property -- to support public safety and beautification efforts in the Mile Square. 

The move was made possible through state legislation passed this year. 

The goal is to target investment around public safety, homeless outreach, cleanliness and beautification efforts. The measure would generate $5.5 million a year. Downtown Indy, Inc. President and CEO Taylor Schaffer said a pilot program funded with federal relief dollars has shown the effort can work. 

“In terms of the data that we're tracking, how much trash is being picked up? How quickly are we responding to calls for service? How many touch points are we creating?” Schaffer said. “These dollars are allowing us to do it in ways that really downtown Indianapolis has never seen before.”

The pilot program has reported nine times the amount of weekly foot and bike patrols, an additional 5,000 bags of picked-up trash and new outreach workers. The funding would also help operations at low-barrier shelters and provide new safety technology.

Schaffer said many other metros have similar districts set up to support downtown enhancements. Under the measure, the district would be governed by a board that includes property owners. 

“To ensure that those resources are being targeted in thoughtful ways that protect their investment,” Schaffer said.

A Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee will discuss the proposal this month. The fee would appear on the 2025 bill for owners of real taxable property in the Mile Square.

Contact WFYI city government and policy reporter Jill Sheridan at jsheridan@wfyi.org.

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