(WMC-TV) - The Mid-South Fairgrounds could be getting a face lift to the tune of $233 million. This comes after an 88-page application was submitted to the Commissioner of the Department of Finance and Administration, Larry Martin, on September 13.
The documents also include an application to certify the 155-acre space as a Tourist Development Zone.
That zoning could bring in retail space, restaurants, a hotel, residential space, sports facilities and enhancements to the Children's Museum of Memphis, which is located near the fairgrounds.
The dozens of pages are also detailing a proposal asking to rezone the area surrounding the Mid-South Fairgrounds. The rezoning is possible thanks the Convention Center and Tourism Development Financing Act of 1988.
The law gives Tourism Development Zones the ability to use sales tax dollars in the designated area to pay for renovation in that area.
"The core of our city is being rebuilt, and we're doing it without raising property taxes," said Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.
That area would include the Memphis Zoo, Overton Square, Overton Park, Union Avenue and Cooper-Young. All of which are full of business and sales tax money that would go directly to paying for the project.
Here is where it gets complicated: It's all based on projections.
A base sales tax projection is set prior to construction. In this case, sales tax in the zone is projected to be about $18 million in 2016.
Once the project construction begins, any increase in sales tax from that $18 million goes directly to paying the project.
"This is all in that neighborhood, the tax dollars that are being spent there now, those sales tax dollars, a good portion of it is going way somewhere else. So what this device will do is allow us to capture those funds, a portion of them and redevelop in that area," said Wharton.
But if sales taxes does not increase based on projections the debt will still exist, and the city will have to find another way to pay for the project.
If this sounds familiar it is because the city already went through the same process at the beginning stages of the Pyramid Bass Pro Shop. Tourism Development Zones have been designated all over the state, taking state sales tax dollars and putting them right back into paying off the project.
"This is not just, let's redo the fairground. It's redo the fairground neighborhood, including beltline, including the Children's Museum of Memphis, all of this is being redone," said Wharton.
The proposal is still in the beginning stages; the state Finance & Administration Department is still reviewing.
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