Developer for Anchor Plaza wants city and county to support TIF plan

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A developer is working to get approval from Gulfport and Harrison County on a plan to bring a major development to Highway 49.

Ascent Hospitality Inc. says it's willing to invest millions to install infrastructure in the area if local governments agree to a plan that would have the development's future taxes paying for the infrastructure.

The developer says the plan would be a win-win for them and the city.

Laurence Leyens represents the company that wants to break $137 million Anchor Plaza project into the city, but before that can happen the developer needs city and county leaders to approve tax increment financing, also known as a TIF Plan.

"He [Ascent Hospitality Inc.] would build all of the public infrastructure to the specifications of the city. The city must approve all of them before he can be eligible for reimbursement," said Leyens.

Leyens says under the plan, the developer would spend $19 million to build things like lighting, streets, curbs, and sidewalks. In exchange, the developer wants the city and county to give them significant discounts on property and sales tax over the next 15 years.

According to Leyens, those cuts would add up to around a $15 million reimbursement for the infrastructure work.

"He needs the city and the county to support the tax increment financing plan which is a mechanism without jeopardizing the good faith and credit of the city in any way. It allows them to basically reimburse him with his own taxes for that public infrastructure," said Leyens.

Leyens says if the city and county don't support the project Anchor Plaza would most likely not happen.

"It's not likely to happen, because it's raw land, it has no infrastructure. The estimate there is about $19 million worth of public infrastructure that needs to occur to make this a vital area. In other words businesses don't want to locate on private roads they want to locate on public roads.

Leyens say the city hasn't made a decision on the project,yet. And he says the developer is undergoing informal talks with the county.

He expects to get a decision on the tax increment financing from both entities by July. City officials say they hope to make a decision on the TIF plan during the June 3 council meeting.

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