E.D.D.C. touts Opportunity Zones in D.C. return
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A meeting at the U.S. Department of Transportation is one of five stops leaders of the Erie Downtown Development Corporation made during another whirlwind trip to Washington.
“For the revitalization of downtown Erie, it has to be a public-private partnership,” said EDDC Chief Executive Officer John Persinger of the city’s eight Opportunity Zones.
That’s the goal of this trip to the nation’s capital: to leverage more federal funding back to Erie.
“We don’t control the public infrastructure,” explained EDDC Finance & Development Vice President Matthew Wachter. “The community is an investment, and that’s a public sector investment.”
But the group is hoping to attract funding for more than just roads and bridges. It also comes with a 21st century technical and digital infrastructure.
“Free public access WiFI, traffic management systems, solutions that actually make for a digital downtown,” said Karl Sanchack, President and CEO of the Erie Innovation District.
The EDDC has been around for a little over a year. But some of their plans are catching the eye of the federal government, including a $39 million project revitalizing North Park Row into a culinary arts hub and apartment complex. It’s beginning to paint Erie as a national leader in the eyes of the government when it comes to Opportunity Zones.
“When a community really shows us that they have this kind of plan in place, it really does help and encourage us that they are going to good things with (the money),” said Loren Smith, senior adviser at the U.S. Dept. of Transportation.
Opportunity Zones heavily rely on private dollars through a tax incentive from the 2017 tax reform package. The U.S. D.O.T. sees several areas locally where that money could be spent.
“It could be roads, it could be rails, it could be ports,” Smith explained.
“Some of the infrastructure needs down on the Bayfront, the downtown streetscape plan,” said Brett Wiler, director of capital formation at the Flagship Opportunity Zone Development Company.
State Sen. Dan Laughlin is also working with fellow lawmakers to free up funding in Harrisburg for the projects.
“That will help maximize the Opportunity Zones investments, some tax relief and things like that,” Laughlin explained about the upcoming legislation.