Staff Writer

Special tax incentives extended Wednesday to a Tyler developer are expected to help support continued revitalization in the city's north end.

Tyler City Council members approved a measure giving North Chase Development the financial assistance it needs to complete Forest Meadows subdivision.

The subdivision is part of a 405-acre master-planned development off U.S. Highway 69 North that includes Lakeview Apartments and Pinnacle of North Chase.

The completed project is intended to provide decent, affordable housing for renters who would like to own their own home.

"The collaboration of North Chase Development and the programs offered by the city should create the perfect combination to revitalize this area of the community," Mayor Barbara Bass said. "Using these public programs in conjunction with private investment is exactly what is needed to bring this portion of the Tyler 21 plan to fruition."

A goal of Tyler 21 is the creation of 3,000 new rooftops in the north end.

To both meet that goal and jumpstart development, the council earlier agreed to establish a Neighborhood Empowerment Zone for the North Chase project area to provide financial support to qualified projects.

North Chase plans to build and sell 20 units for owner-occupied housing, seven of which are expected to meet affordable housing criteria, records show.

In exchange the city agrees to provide up to $286,000 in funding, derived from the Community Development Block Grant funds, to construct streets and utilities.

Under the terms of the agreement, if the project does not get off the ground, the city can ask for a refund.

Developer Ed Thompson appears confident there is enough demand for affordable housing to make the project viable.

"If we can't sell these homes in the city of Tyler in three years, there's something wrong," he said.

Some of the city's financial support comes from unspent Community Development Block Grant money left over from projects dating back to 2006.

Federal guidelines allow unspent money to be reprogrammed into other qualified projects, Brenda Johnson, Neighborhood Services director, said.

"We're taking what's left and putting it to good use," she said.

The city also plans to extend breaks on development-related fees such as for zoning and permits, and incentives per unit constructed.

City leaders plan to waive the escrow for the North Broadway Extension and provide direct access to the Neighborhood Services Department's First Time Homebuyers Program.

"Programs like the NEZ and economic development incentives have been used in other communities to inspire private investment," Mayor Pro Tem Ralph Caraway said. "We are hoping these programs provide Tyler the same success."

In a related action item, the city council also agreed Wednesday to accept grant funding from the Family Self Sufficiency Program to hire a housing coordinator.

The coordinator's mission is to increase the number of qualified homebuyers and reduce the numbers of people receiving long-term Section 8 federal housing assistance.

"Our goal is to get people off the voucher program and into one of those seven homes," Police Chief Gary Swindle said. "What a great program that would be — we'll set some really tight goals to work them through the voucher program" and off the rolls.

Thompson said he's grateful for the city's confidence in this project.

"First and foremost, I'd like to thank God," he said. "Following the vision of Tyler 21, the city's leaders have implemented tools necessary to make the development possible for the citizens of Tyler."