Assembly Square Could Receive DIF Funding

by Tom Nash on November 18, 2010

As the city grapples with a controversial financing proposal that would take several properties by eminent domain, a similar financing plan for a portion of Assembly Square will be pitched to a Board of Aldermen committee next week.

The District Improvement Financing (DIF) plan prepared by the city’s Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development calls for eight acres of land along “Assembly Row” owned by Federal Realty Investment Trust to be eligible for tax revenue generated in that area to go toward the infrastructure required to build it.

City spokesman Michael Meehan said the plan was developed as a way to make sure the financing necessary for the development remains viable, given the uncertain economy.

“The main reason [for the DIF] is that there’s infrastructure that needs to be built over there, which needs to happen before the buildings can go up,” Meehan said. “There’s a lot of money coming from different places to do that. When you’ve got that sort of interdependent financing scheme … You don’t know what you don’t know.”

Mystic View Task Force member Wig Zamore said the DIF, while not as sweeping as the one proposed in September, could pose similar financial risks for taxpayers. He said he remains concerned that the Assembly Square project lacks development that would generate sustainable tax revenue.

“Unless the mix of land use in Somerville veers back to a balance of tax producing uses, we’re going to stay in the fiscal hole we have and this DIF can potentially deepen that,” Zamore said.

“The DIF materials have no fiscal impact analysis whatsoever,” he added. “The first thing anyone needs to know is, what’s an independent analysis is going to say.”

The plan is scheduled to be discussed at the Nov. 22 Board of Aldermen Committee on Finance meeting.

While the DIF proposed for other parts of the city is also scheduled to be taken up at that meeting, Ward 2 alderman and committee chair Maryann Heuston said it’s “on the back burner for now – as far as I can tell.”

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Courtney O'Keefe November 19, 2010 at 10:48 AM

Proposing Assembly Square as a DIF district makes more sense than the Union Square heavy proposal made earlier this year. The key is landing a developer that will commit to the project-something that other cities in Massachusetts did not do, therefore, making the DIF designation pointless.

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