A vacant area of Elder-Beerman is seen following the store's closure on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. (Photo: Mickey Shuey/Palladium-Item)
A vacant area of Elder-Beerman is seen following the store's closure on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. (Photo: Mickey Shuey/Palladium-Item)

RICHMOND — For years, it's been a dream of local government and economic development officials to bring more housing options to downtown Richmond, a move that they believe would help jump-start a revitalization of that area.

Federal tax-cut legislation passed in December 2017 provided an unexpected new path to accomplish that goal, creating a designation called Opportunity Zones meant to spur new investment by allowing for the deferral of capital gains taxes.

Since then, local leaders have been racing to understand the intricacies of the designation's regulations and to figure out how best they can take advantage of the opportunities it provides.

Now, that work is nearly finished and the effort to sell Richmond to investors looking for projects is about to begin.

What's an Opportunity Zone?

Wayne County has two areas, both in Richmond, that have been selected as Opportunity Zones. In addition to downtown, a census tract that incorporates a large section of the southern half of the city also has been given the brand.

There are 156 zones across 83 cities and towns in Indiana alone. Across the U.S., the total is some 8,700.

To be eligible, a census tract must have a poverty rate of at least 20 percent and a median family income no greater than 80 percent of the area median.

Governors nominated a quarter of the low-income census tracts in their states, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury signed off on the final list of designees.

The aim of the program is to encourage economic development in low-income areas by allowing people to take their capital gains and reinvest them into new projects. Taxes on those capital gains then would be reduced and put off until years later, and any future capital gains generated by investing in Opportunity Zone projects would be tax-free.

Local officials knew they needed help if they were going to take advantage of the Opportunity Zone designation, so the city, the Economic Development Corp. of Wayne County, the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce and Center City Development Corp. joined together last year to hire Indianapolis consulting firm Thomas P. Miller and Associates.

TPMA has spent the time since working to put together a prospectus of potential projects that can be used to pitch Richmond to investors across the country.

Copyright © 2020 www.pal-item.com.