071719 Middletown Commons rendering.jpg (copy)

These images show the plans for the future of Middletown Commons in White Hall.

FAIRMONT — State officials have approved a county commission proposal to create a development district that encompasses the $88 million Middletown Commons redevelopment project.

In a Nov. 6 letter, the director of the West Virginia Development Office notified the commission that its application is approved and allows the commission to create a Tax Increment Financing District.

At its meeting Wednesday, the commission provided a first reading of its order approving and creating a new Tax Increment Financing District in Marion County to be known as “The County Commission of Marion County Development District No. 2. The order also approves the Middletown Commons Redevelopment Project No. 1 and establishes a Tax Increment Financing Fund.

The commission has scheduled a public hearing on the order at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 4.

David Biafora, who is developing the Middletown Commons along with Richard Biafora of General Acquisitions, was pleased to hear about the TIF District’s approval

“It’s going to be a good thing,” he said, when asked for comment Wednesday afternoon. “It’s been a long time coming, but we’re excited things are moving forward and we look forward to completing all the infrastructure and making that place great again.”

The Biaforas’ project, developed by General Acquisitions LLC, will transform the former mall into Middletown Commons, an outdoor shopping center similar to Suncrest Towne Centre in Morgantown. A covered drive-through structure in the middle of the Commons will connect the front and rear parking areas.

With the establishment of Marion County Development District No. 2, property and sales taxes will be used to help the developers focus on new investment and community development and renewal. Designating a TIF district “in a municipality or county can encourage growth, jobs and private and public investments that improve property tax values and, in turn, ultimately grow revenue, according to the Charleston-based law firm Bowles Rice LLP.

“Tax increment financing captures the projected increase in property tax revenue gained by developing a discrete geographic area and uses that increase to assist in paying for the project. This funding makes it possible to go forward with projects that otherwise would not be built,” according to a Property Tax Increment Financing in West Virginia.

County Commission President Randy Elliott also expressed his enthusiasm, after the meeting.

“I’m very excited about it,” he said. “I’m very supportive of what’s going on out there in the redevelopment of the Middletown Mall area.”

He said it would benefit the county in several ways.

“It’s extremely important that we develop that area because it brings in not only a lot of tax revenue that we can do so much with, but it also brings us services that we need in Marion County here also,” he said.

He said it will also bring employment and draw people into the county. He thought it would bring businesses into the county that aren’t here now.

“It means a lot,” he said. “It helps in a lot of different ways to have that occurring in Marion County as opposed to our neighboring county.”

Previously, Jay Rogers, principal in charge of business development for Omni Associates Architects, which is working on the Commons project, said the new Commons will house retail, commercial offices, medical offices, recreation and entertainment.

With the acquisition of the mall and other expenses such as renovation and construction costs, he said the total investment for the developers is close to $88 million.

The mall project area encompasses 187 acres while the total TIF is 1,909 acres, and also includes undeveloped property surrounding the I-79 Tech Park, the Hoglick Industrial Park and the Marion County/Harrison County line, as well as the former mall property, Rogers said.

Former White Hall Mayor Guy Ward, a longtime proponent of the project, said, he’s been waiting five or six years for TIF to go through.

“I think it’s great news,” he said, when contacted Wednesday afternoon.

He said it was not only good for White Hall, but all of Marion County. He thought it would bring in business and develop the area around the mall, the I-79 Tech Park and the southern part of the county.

Ward thought it would usher in jobs and business, helping such places as White Hall, Fairmont and Pleasant Valley.

Eric Hrin can be reached at 304-367-2549, or ehrin@timeswv.com.

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