Monday, January 30, 2023

Low-income communities in area may get new investments to drive redevelopment and jobs

The Walmart Distribution Center is located on Pocahontas Trail in Grove. Local economic developers hope tax incentives will bring more industry to the area. (Marie Albiges/WYDaily)
The Walmart Distribution Center is located on Pocahontas Trail in Grove. Local economic developers hope tax incentives will bring more industry to the area. (Marie Albiges/WYDaily)

If successful, a new federal incentive may help generate job opportunities in low-income communities in the Historic Triangle, and local economic developers can already see the potential impact.

The Grove community in James City County and a portion of Williamsburg have been designated opportunity zones by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

The areas are two of 212 census tracts through the commonwealth that will soon provide tax benefits for investors who spend their unrealized capital gains within the region.

Amy Jordan, James City County’s director of economic development,  said the details and incentives have not yet been ironed out at the federal level, so the program’s impact remains to be seen — but she said she is confident it will spur growth in the Grove community.

“Even though the program hasn’t been defined yet, it gets hopes up that there’s going to be these opportunities where we can use it to help leverage investment,” Jordan said. “It’s all speculative but I would say there’s definitely opportunity to leverage investment like that because it helps take some of the market risk off the investor.”

The zones were created through the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, and details are expected to be settled by the end of 2018, according to the office of Gov. Ralph Northam.

What is known is that investors can defer tax on prior gains by reinvesting in opportunity zones. Additional benefits may apply if the investment is held for at least 10 years.

Each opportunity zone was nominated by Northam and confirmed by the federal treasury, but Jordan said the localities advocated on behalf of an area to the state. Jordan said there are several places in Grove that are ripe for investment.

“We see those opportunities for investment in many different ways,” she said. “We have a lot of great industries to work off but we also have a lot of great opportunities with land.”

The James River Commerce Center in Grove is one area economic planners are hoping to see investment. (WYDaily/Courtesy Google Maps)
The James River Commerce Center in Grove is one area economic planners are hoping to see investment. (WYDaily/Courtesy Google Maps)

She said Green Mount Industrial Park, the former BASF property and the James River Commerce Center are areas she hopes will receive investment under the program. The county owns property in the commerce center that is set aside for redevelopment.

Affordable housing among priorities

Jordan said there is a need for affordable and workforce housing in Grove, as well as grocery options to meet the needs of the low-income population.

In addition, outside investments that create new industrial jobs may lead to further investments in both affordable housing and grocery stores, she said.

“The workforce housing piece is important because if you get more industry, you get more housing,” Jordan said. “Those rooftops will help draw demand for a grocery store.”

The Lee Hall portion of Newport News was also named an opportunity zone, and Jordan said the two investments in the two neighboring regions could drive one another.

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” she said. “The more we can encourage redevelopment and some new development the better we all are.”

In Williamsburg, the redevelopment of the Northeast Triangle — the area bound by Capitol Landing Road, Merrimac Trail and Second Street — has long been a priority among officials and staff.

“The city had already seen that as an area we wanted to encourage tax incentives for those types of investments,” City Economic Development Director Michele DeWitt said. “This is a nice additional tool.”

In October 2016, City Council rezoned portion of the area as a ‘culinary arts district,’ to encourage the operation of brewpubs, restaurants and bake shops. The area was also labeled a tourism zone to encourage private investment in the city from private companies.

DeWitt said the city’s prior efforts in the Northeast Triangle dovetail with the federal program.

“This is a nice additional tool,” DeWitt said, adding she is hoping to see the development of “a commercial use that will attract people and blends in with the city.”

The city owns three parcels of land on Capitol Landing Road, including the Capitol Landing Center where the DMV was previously located. DeWitt said the city hopes to see the properties redeveloped into viable businesses, such as Copper Fox Distillery, which was once a motel before being sold and redeveloped.

DeWitt said in addition to alcohol and beverage, other tourism-related industries such as hotels, restaurants, retail and destination entertainment could draw investments in the Northeast Triangle.

“The opportunities we see are pretty vast,” she said.

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