Norristown Municipal Council discussed a proposal to designate four properties along East Washington Street – 356, 500, 600 and 700 E. Washington Street – as a Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ). The designation would make the riverfront properties tax exempt for ten years.
The move is intended to spur development in the area which is located in a floodplain, and not particularly attractive to developers at the moment. Council considers the move a way to lure larger developers into Norristown and revitalize the community.
"In dealing with some of the larger developers, one of the biggest [questions] that they had was 'What do you own as parcels? How much land do you have?'," said Council President Gary Simpson. "The simple fact is, Norristown in and of itself owns absolutely no property. Any property we have ever had, we've developed."
Three of the four properties are owned by the Montgomery County Redevelopment Authority (MCRA) and are already tax exempt. Two of those three are already KOZ designated, but are set to expire soon. The fourth property is privately owned, but according to Municipal Manager Dave Forrest, taxes for that property amount to a mere $900 annually.
Council heard from Lois Hagarty, of consulting firm State Street Advisors, on the merits of the KOZ and of interest already expressed in the property by Norristown-based , who suggested the tax incentive. According to Haggerty, Gretz is considering moving its Doylestown warehouse (along with 40 warehouse jobs) to Norristown to consolidate its operation, though Simpson suggested he'd like to see larger developers take on the proposed area.
According to The Times Herald, Forest and Hagarty made a presentation on the proposed KOZ to the Norristown Area School Board on Monday, Aug. 20. As taxing authorities with interest in the property, both the school board and the county would have to sign off on the KOZ. The school board is expected to discuss it at an Aug. 27 meeting. The deadline for the KOZ application is Oct. 1.
Learn more about Pennsylvania's Keystone Opportunity Zone here.