Riverside Landing developer plans to seek tax-increment financing for infrastructure

The developer of the Riverside Landing project near Bass Pro Shops in Denham Springs said he plans within the next month to seek tax-increment financing for the project.

Jacob Fa-Kouri, who also spearheaded Bass Pro, talked about seeking the tax-increment financing, or TIF, in an interview after he presented plans for the economic development project to the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

Fa-Kouri said he intends to ask the Livingston Parish Council to approve a TIF for Riverside Landing, which covers an area south of Bass Pro Boulevard and north of Vincent Road between 4-H Club Road and South Range Avenue.

Fa-Kouri said the new TIF would be limited to sales tax revenue collected within that district.

A portion of Riverside Landing is just outside Denham Springs city limits and Fa-Kouri will have to seek the Parish Council’s permission to apply some of the sales tax dollars collected from that portion to the project’s costs. He would have to separately seek approval from the city for a TIF for other portions of the project.

Tax-increment-financing plans redirects sales tax revenue collected within a district to development projects, like Bass Pro and the proposed Juban Crossing development off Interstate 12 at Juban Road.

Fa-Kouri’s statements come about a week after the Parish Council rejected a proposal to increase Livingston’s contribution of road sales tax revenue to Juban Crossing.

Bass Pro opened in 2008 with the help of a TIF that diverted to the developer a portion of sales tax revenue that otherwise would have gone to the Denham Springs City Council, Livingston Parish Council, parish School Board, Sheriff’s Office and Livingston Gravity Drainage District 1.

Fa-Kouri noted that an economic development district already exists for Riverside Landing, but a TIF does not.

Details of the proposed TIF are still being ironed out, but Fa-Kouri said he’s considering asking for a one-cent sales tax increase in the development.

Sales taxes in the western part of the district, which are outside Denham Springs city limits, are 8½ cents, Fa-Kouri said. It’s 9½ cents within city limits.

Fa-Kouri said the new TIF would help finance infrastructure and drainage work within Riverside Landing and help build entrance and exit ramps off Interstate 12 at 4-H Club Road for easier access to the development.

Fa-Kouri emphasized the money would only be collected within the district.

“If you don’t accept it, don’t shop in there and none of your money will go to that TIF,” Fa-Kouri said.

Plans for Riverside Landing include women’s clothing and accessories stores, homemaking stores and a Cavender’s, a cowboy boots and Western-style clothing store that broke ground July 30.

The next phase of Riverside Landing, which sits between 4-H Club Road and the Cavender’s site, will begin construction once 60 percent of the retailers sign up to join the project, which could be by the end of the year, Fa-Kouri said.

Most of that land lies outside Denham Springs.

Parish Councilwoman Joan Landry, whose district includes the Riverside Landing area, said she does not think the TIF would pass if presented to the council.

Landry was one of three council members who voted in favor of increasing the TIF for Juban Crossing. Ricky Goff and Marshall Harris were the other two.

Landry said she supports the Riverside Landing project but that its small size isn’t worthy of a separate TIF of its own. She said Riverside Landing is only 17 acres in size, compared with the 75-acre Bass Pro site and the 470-acre Juban Crossing.

Landry also said the infrastructure is already in place for Riverside Landing and needs little improvement.

Fa-Kouri said Riverside Landing deserves a TIF because of the success of Bass Pro.

“If you go down the road (to Juban Crossing), there’s nothing there, and they want to do a TIF, well, you don’t know if it’s working or not,” he said. “This one (at Bass Pro) is working.”

Fa-Kouri said his crews would “have to work a little harder” if the TIF money isn’t available, possibly increasing square footage to bring in more retailers.

“You’ve got to maybe try to get more square footage in here to get more retailers in to be able to pay for the actual work you’ve got to do,” Fa-Kouri said.

Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said it’s important for Riverside Landing to be built. However, he said, the likelihood of passing a TIF depends on the amount developers seek.

“When they did the TIF for Bass Pro, the idea was that things are going to skyrocket and grow around that. That’s what this is,” he said.