With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic striking the world, Frankfort is no exception. The closings of retail stores, schools and restaurants, Frankfort is no exception. This has increased the amount of vacant commercial space in our local market — Frankfort IS an exception.
Our community is tolerating the increase in vacant professional office space and the loss of a civic center for the community. Neither of these appear to have fiscal solutions for our community.
As a real estate appraiser, Realtor and lifelong resident of the community, I can attest that we have a challenge upon us with no easy way out. The solution to vacant buildings — attract new business to fill them.
The state took a fiscal approach of leasing private office space in Frankfort. This was a commitment to our community that some private developers helped meet the demands as state government expanded over the past 40 years. The perception was to have a commitment to keeping government offices in Frankfort at a lower cost than constructing new buildings.
From a private developer standpoint, this is a financial risk that is taken. Most developers will usually do their homework before committing to a large investment for a future reward. Nothing is ever guaranteed.
The state had a professional office study performed which produced an opinion that they leased too much office space and this prompted a change to construct new space as it would save money in the long run moving forward.
The state has now moved forward with a trend of partnering with a developer for P3 partnerships with private ownership for a leaseback period and then revert the ownership to the state. For Frankfort’s recent two P3 buildings — the 300 Building and the Mayo-Underwood Building — with a property valuation administrator's fair cash value of $111,609,000 combined, current tax rates would nail a private developer at $1.8 million per year.
This is no growth for the community, but only a reconfiguration of existing state jobs. No growth will create the eyesores we are becoming accustomed to. This is a community problem we need to address, immediately. How do we solve this? No one has a magic wand that I am aware of.
This is a time for our community leaders of both the city and county to offer incentives for job creation that could attract other businesses that are not government-related. Wait, we have been doing that all along.
How about offering no property taxes for these vacant buildings for 15 years if viable jobs are created, or maybe the state would offer to purchase the vacant buildings. Getting creative with private investment incentives appear to work in other communities for privatization if it is focused correctly.
We need to make Frankfort a thriving business destination. We need to come together and finally work out a community relationship with the state. Again, they have been paying a sum of $175,000 to the community that has not been adjusted in nearly 40 years. It is time to come to the table.
While the world meets the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic having similar obstacles created, Frankfort IS an exception of having a greater challenge that we inherited before the pandemic. This is a call for our local leaders to effectively address a vision for our community.
A joint task force should be assembled from our local talented community to advise on the creation of some incentives that should be adopted. This is a risk we need to take to attain a reward Frankfort desperately needs.
Marshall T. Flynn is a Frankfort appraiser and Realtor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.