A proposed $45 million to $50 million development of two logistics buildings south of the Cincinnati Premium Outlets Mall may be in jeopardy as Monroe city officials were “underwhelmed” by the proposal.
Bob Laughlin of Peregrine Property Group is seeking to build the buildings on 117 acres that was rezoned last spring back to light industrial:
• A 210,000 square-foot building that would create 300 jobs and an estimated payroll of $13.5 million a year
• A 750,000 square-foot building that would create 500 to 550 jobs with an estimated payroll of $16.5 million a year.
In an email exchange earlier this week between Laughlin and Jennifer Patterson, assistant to the city manager/economic development, Patterson updated Laughlin on the feedback by Monroe City Council during its executive session discussion at its Tuesday council meeting.
Patterson told Laughlin that most of council’s feedback “was specifically targeted to the request for TIF (Tax Increment Financing) funds and the job/payroll commitments.” She also said council does not support the use of TIF funds for road construction.
“A CRA (Community Reinvestment Area tax abatement) at 50% for 10 years is not out of the question, but they were underwhelmed with the payroll/jobs as presented,” she said. “They are looking to focus incentives on projects that more closely reflect or even improve upon recent projects such as the Kroger project, which had substantially higher wages than what was presented last night. They also have a preference to know the end user for all incentivized projects.”
CRA tax abatements are used to promote new construction or the rehabilitation of residential, commercial or industrial structures.
“I understand that this may be an opportunity to regroup and determine if it makes sense to move forward on the site,” she said. “If you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
Messages for comment were left for Patterson and City Manager Bill Brock.
In his response, Laughlin said he “was disappointed to hear council was ‘underwhelmed’ by the Development Proposal.”
Laughlin said he thought TIF funding was to created to accomplish road building and thought completion of Gateway Boulevard was a priority.
“Council seems to think that industrial development and the doling out of tax abatements represents some kind of zero-sum game that subtracts from opportunities and revenues from Monroe’s finite crockpot,” he said. “I submit that these opportunities and tax base would otherwise not exist. Given the city’s recent reputation as a difficult place to do business (look at the thank-you Kroger/Ocado received for its ‘tax breaks for billionaires off the backs of taxpayers’). What company would go through the time and trouble without some sense of certainty?”
Laughlin said “Council seems very condescending in general towards logistics employment (otherwise good jobs for low-skilled citizens). What infrastructure does Monroe have in place (educational or otherwise) to attract desired hi-tech unicorns?”
He said their development stands ready to serve as a catalyst for improvements now.
Developer Lenny Robinson, who owns the land south of mall, said that area was originally zoned industrial in the 1940s and was rezoned to commercial in the late 1999 for a 1.4 million square-foot mall project led by Taubman Company. However, after September 2001, the retail sector took a severe downturn, and Taubman dropped their option in 2003, he said.
In the past few months, council members have questioned the number of logistics and warehouse facilities coming to Monroe and seeking tax abatements.
Vice Mayor Dan Clark and Councilman Todd Hickman have voted against several rezoning requests in recent months. Both council members have said Monroe has enough warehouses and would prefer to see other businesses that pay employees higher salaries.
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