Spokane Journal of Business

Projects ignited in Coeur d’Alene

Ignite cda looks to form new urban renewal district, takes on more projects

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-—Samantha Peone
Ignite cda operates two urban renewal districts, the Lake District and the River District. Later this year, the organization wants to add a third such district. Inset, the Coeur d’Alene Public Library project occurred with assistance from ignite cda.

Tony Berns, ignite cda executive director, says one of the largest projects the urban renewal agency is focusing on this year is the creation of a third redevelopment district—the Atlas District.

As currently proposed, the new district would occupy 54 acres, but final acreage has yet to be determined, Berns says. The district is planned in west Coeur d’Alene, south of Seltice Way, with the most southern point reaching the Spokane River, he says.

Berns says the agency hopes to have that district finalized by September.

Meantime, the agency is contributing to a number of economic development and revitalization projects this year, including a parking structure and a higher education building.

Ignite cda, the marketing name for the Coeur d’Alene Urban Renewal Agency, is based at 105 N. First. The agency is a unit of the city of Coeur d’Alene but is a separate legal entity, says Berns.

Ignite cda focuses on improving and expanding the city of Coeur d’Alene’s infrastructure, he says.

“I like to say we create value for the community, and value is both monetary and quality of life,” he says.

Ignite cda currently oversees two redevelopment districts: the Lake District and the River District, says Berns.

The agency is funded largely by property tax revenue generated through new development within the districts.

Total tax increment revenue for fiscal year 2017, which ended Sept. 30, was $5.7 million. Estimated tax increment revenue for 2018 is $6.2 million, says Berns.

To encourage economic development through private projects, ignite cda uses a tax increment financing model to reimburse developers for certain work that directly benefits the public.

For example, the agency will partner with a developer, who will pay up front public infrastructure that serves the development. Ignite cda then reimburses the developer through the new property tax revenue resulting from that property developed.

In one of its more recent partnerships with a private developer, ignite cda has conditionally agreed to reimburse CDA Mullan Partners LLC, the developer of the 47-unit The Lake Apartments, up to $568,800 for public infrastructure and amenities—such as benches, curb replacement, public lighting, and trees—included in that project.

The $7 million complex is under construction at 821 E. Mullan, near the Coeur d’Alene Public Library.

All private projects that have used the agency’s tax increment financing have been successes, Berns asserts.

“That has been a very effective business model for us for years, decades,” says Berns. 

On the public side, ignite cda uses funds from new property tax revenue generated within the Lake and River districts to fund public works directly, he says.

The biggest project for ignite cda this year will be the $7.3 million parking garage, says Berns.

As earlier reported in the Journal, the garage will be located in downtown Coeur d’Alene between Third and Fourth streets. The garage will have four-stories with a total of 360 spaces.

Construction started last month and is expected to be completed in late summer or early fall.

The agency is developing the garage and plans to transfer ownership to the city.

Berns says the agency doesn’t work with any specific developer. He says ignite cda “will work with anybody who can show to the board that they are effective, are solvent, and can do a good project.”

Berns says some of the agency’s key areas of emphasis include education, job retention, public space, parking, and the life of downtown.

“We want to focus on quality of life, but we also want to act as an economic catalyst for the community,” he says of the agency.

Right now, he says, Coeur d’Alene’s economy primarily is based on hospitality, but he sees growth potential in the health care and tech industries.

The Lake District was established in 1997 and currently encompasses 671 acres. It includes parts of downtown, Midtown, and Northwest Boulevard, he says. That district will end in 2021.

The River District was established in 2003 and will expire in 2027. The district covers 307 acres in Coeur d’Alene, extending from Riverstone West development west to the Huetter area, between the Spokane River and Interstate 90.

Along with creating the Atlas District, ignite cda also is looking at expanding the River District by 29 acres, he says.

The expansion, abutting the proposed Atlas District, would encompass part of the abandoned Atlas Mill site, which the city is acquiring through a transaction expected to be completed in May.

Ignite cda is participating in ongoing improvements to Memorial Park on the northwest edge of downtown, where the organization has committed $1.5 million for 2018. Work there will include installing a new futsal court, restrooms, a playground area, and a surface parking area.

Another continuing project is Seltice Way revitalization in west Coeur d’Alene, where ignite cda has committed $4.6 million. The project, which includes two roundabouts and other traffic-control infrastructure, is expected to be completed in early summer.

In the education sector, the agency has chipped in $2.5 million toward the North Idaho Collaborative Education facility. The roughly $9.5 million construction project is being developed in partnership with ignite cda, the Idaho state Department of Public Works, North Idaho College, the University of Idaho, and Lewis Clark State College, he says.

The two-story, 30,000-square-foot facility will be located at the southwest corner of Hubbard Avenue and College Drive.

The building will be a “focal point for all the students coming to campus,” says Berns, who adds that he’s hopeful construction will start in spring and be completed in fall 2019.

Other notable projects ignite cda has previously partnered on include McEuen Park, the Riverstone development, The Salvation Army Coeur d’Alene Ray & Joan Kroc Community Center, and the Coeur d’Alene Public Library.

The agency, which was established in 1997 under the original name of Lake City Development Corp., has a board of nine directors. Two of the directors are City Council members, but they act as community members on the board rather than City Council members.

“The value is having that liaison relationship between the City Council and (ignite cda’s board) so that the city and the agency are aligned in what we are doing in the community,” says Berns, the sole employee of the agency.

Samantha Peone
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Reporter Samantha Peone joined the Journal in 2015 as research coordinator before later transitioning into a reporter role. She covers real estate and construction.

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