A city is most often defined by its Main Street. It’s the calling card. Most likely, anyone driving through Heber City will see Main Street. So, what sort of impression does Heber’s Main Street give? Quaint? Peaceful? Industrial? Busy? Is it a gathering place? Or is it a place people want to get through quickly? Many community members and leaders would love to create a more memorable Main Street. Heber is an amazing place, with a rich and interesting history. The people here are welcoming and thoughtful. The location is downright stunning. It’s obvious that word has gotten out. But is Heber City’s Main Street drowning in the influx of traffic and growth and even just years passing by? Is it too late to save Main Street? Many don’t think so.
Heber’s Main Street still has a lot going for it. There are historic buildings, beautiful pieces of art, flower boxes, an amazing city hall, a city park, and so much more. Most importantly, there is a community surrounding it that cares. According to their website, The Community Alliance for Main Street was created “to restore and improve our beloved historic Main Street for our current residents and future generations.” Chairperson Tom Stone believes, “Main Street is the heartbeat. It’s the first impression. Today? It’s not what we want it to be. But it’s happening. Things are moving forward. People are noticing. Why is it going forward now? Because people see the potential. People want to be a part of it.”
But where does the money to help Main Street come from? Main Street improvements cannot come to fruition without a method of funding. There is a way. Communities nationwide have used a funding mechanism called a Community Reinvestment Agency, or CRA. CRA’s are not unusual. They have already been utilized in multiple Utah cities including Moab, Ogden, Eagle Mountain, Salt Lake City, Sandy, and many more. It is a proven viable economic tool, especially useful for older downtowns needing a little reinvestment.
In Utah, the Neighborhood Development Act was originally created in 1969 to address concerns of urban infrastructure decline. Since that time, the law has continued to evolve into Utah’s current Title 17C, the Community Reinvestment Agency Act. The Act allows a municipality or county to create an Agency, which is a separate legal entity. This agency enters into agreements with other taxing entities, such as the school district or the County. They all agree that any property taxes arising from new development or improvements within the redevelopment area will be reinvested back into the same area. However, before this can happen, a base year value is established, based on the current taxes. In this way, the partner entities will continue to receive the original taxable base value throughout the project. The funding for reinvestment only comes from any increase in tax value. As the money is reinvested; that area increases in value. The reinvestment continues for a predetermined amount of time.
Chamber of Commerce Director, Dallin Koecher, explained, “It is not taxpayer-funded, in the sense that it’s not even a new tax. It’s not even a new assessment. It’s just that, as the value of those properties increases, we’re going to take that increased value and reinvest.”
According to Heber City Mayor Kelleen Potter, “One of the greatest things about a CRA is we do not have to put in any more tax dollars. It’s not going to cost [the public] one more dollar. But we’re going to have better developments and better opportunities come into the city because of the CRA.”
“The CRA is a win-win for the City, the County, and the school district,” explained Heber City Manager Matt Brower. “Not only does the CRA allow us to reinvest in the downtown, but it also allows the school district to continue generating new tax dollars. And, by the way, when the CRA goes away in about 20 years, [the school district] will be the beneficiary of all the new tax increment that was gained during the life of that CRA.”
AN INFUSION OF LIFE
A recent Heber City newsletter stated, “Heber City is preparing a plan to facilitate preservation and redevelopment efforts in the downtown area and the area along 6th West, from Midway Lane to the Heber Creeper.” Using the award-winning Envision Heber 2050 plan as a guide, the CRA would provide funds to achieve the community ideal. “The Envision Heber 2050 plan is amazing because it entails 18 months of intensive public input,” said Brower. “The plan really encapsulates what the public wanted for the future [of Heber City].” Brower continued, “Without the CRA, the downtown will continue to age and will continue to become blighted. We need to re-energize the downtown to fulfill its best days yet. To do that, we want to utilize the CRA, because the CRA is going to allow us to reinvest in the downtown.”
Preserving the history and future of Heber City Main Street is dependent on funding. Mayor Potter described the issues at stake. “When I go to conferences or meet people and I tell them that I’m the mayor of Heber, so many people say, ‘It’s such a cute little town. It’s so quaint, and the Main Street is so charming.’ There are just some buildings that are getting old and need a little touch up, and sometimes for our business owners, the margins are really tight.” She continued, “Hopefully, with the CRA, we can help these businesses who have sacrificed and made our community what it is, but don’t have the money to redo a building or redo a facade on the front of a building. We’re really hoping to maintain the feeling of our old Heber and create that look and feel that we all love. The CRA will be an opportunity for us to do that—to keep going with the parts that we love and help fund some of the things that maybe aren’t doable without it.”
A CRA is a well-known and often-used tool that has played a key role in revitalizing older downtowns across the country. Heber City Main Street certainly has as much to offer, and opportunity is knocking.