City Council says yes to program to spur downtown

July 25, 2018

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
A view of buildings in downtown Madera. Hoping to spur redevelopment and revitalization of parts of downtown Madera, the Madera City Council has voted to waive 75 to 100 percent of city plan review and building permit fees for a period of at least the next one to possibly two years.

Hoping to spur redevelopment and revitalization of parts of downtown Madera, the Madera City Council has voted to waive 75 to 100 percent of city plan review and building permit fees for a period of at least the next one to possibly two years.The affected area is bordered by North Gateway Drive and East Yosemite Avenue business corridors, and by East Central Avenue and North Lake Street.

The City Council voted unanimously for the plan July 18.

City Council Member Will Oliver said the plan, called  the Downtown Development Incentive Program, came about after interaction with many residents, business owners and City Council members grappling with high vacancy rates, blight and a long, steady decline of Madera’s downtown business area.

Council Members Jose Rodriguez and Charles Rigby also served on the action subcommittee.

“In my day job as a director of business services, I have been able to see how communities put their best foot forward and become competitive to recruit, and support prospective businesses,” said Oliver. “I really wanted to make this a priority, and began that conversation last year to move forward with incentives, for businesses with aging buildings or in the downtown corridors to reinvest in those spaces,” Oliver said.

The program will allow the waiver of 100 percent of engineering fees and 75 percent of planning and building inspection fees, potentially a savings of $7,000 to $10,000 for a small- to medium-sized commercial business such as a restaurant or retail shop, Oliver said, possibly enough to make or break an improvement project. More in-depth information on the incentive program can be viewed at www.cityofmadera.ca.gov/incentives or contact the city of Madera development department at 661-5430.

The business enterprise zone project will also allow older buildings, 40 years or older, or with those long vacancies anywhere in the city to be remodeled or re purposed with a significant cost savings, designed to provide tax benefits and incentives to business investors.

The program covers the waiver of most city fees for commercial new construction, redevelopment, interior improvements, facade improvements, ADA improvements, or improvements to city streets, sidewalks, or utilities by owners or tenants.  Fees are also waived for buildings also used in conjunction with a tax exempt or non profit operation under the new and temporary program.

Oliver said the effort was a good step in the right direction. “We’d like to be a ‘yes, if’ city, not a ‘no because’ city.” he said. “The results of this should be greater occupancy in and more reinvestment in our downtown, leading to more job creation and more reinvestment in Madera. It should show as a City Council we are committed to business prosperity with this incentive. I think it’s going to work (well) for the community,” he said.

A recent report by a municipal consultant revealed that the city of Madera had failed to collect appropriate and high enough development impact fees (DIF’s) from most developers building in the city for the last three decades, likely to incentivize the entire area for growth, but that decision by city officials and councils had been costly and had severely underfunded the city’s ability to maintain or extend it’s essential infrastructure now.

Targeting just the existing, older downtown corridors for improvement should be cost effective, and help spur and revitalize the areas most in need, Oliver said, and should improve the entire atmosphere for area residents and businesses.

Oliver also said that as chair of the Madera Housing Authority he was taking the first steps and looking into multi-million-dollar state grant funding programs available for Madera downtown, mixed-use residential-commercial and affordable housing projects that prioritize walk-ability, ride sharing, transit projects, etc.

“It’s very preliminary, the menu of projects we’ve submitted to the state.  But we are right now identifying residential properties downtown that could fall within the mixed use, affordable (residential) housing under the California Cap and Trade Programs. This speaks to (significant funding for) our veterans, our seniors, perhaps even our millennials who are early in their careers for the second and maybe third floor, of our downtown spaces. Madera has a great shot (at these state dollars) as long as we put our name in the hat. And we are preparing, and putting in that effort right now.” Oliver said.

Director of Community Development David Merchen did not respond for comment on the project..

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