Renaissance Zone Brought Life to Downtown Bismarck: Will the Program Continue?

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The Renaissance Zone project was created in 1999 as a way to help rejuvenate businesses in the downtown area, but now the project is running out of time.

The program will expire on July 31st, but the City of Bismarck intends to file a request for a 5-year extension. 

Some say the renaissance project brought 523 full time jobs and 52 new businesses to Bismarck. 

Today, city leaders and business owners went over how they thought the project has served the city so far. 

Businesses like the Luft, Blarney stone, and Fireflour pizza all benefited from the renaissance zone project, which provides money to new businesses to help them get off the ground. 

Kim Lee, Bismarck Planning Manager, says,  “The goal of the renaissance zone is to overall increase the value of downtown, the values of properties themselves, so then the property taxes go higher but also makes the core of the community more vibrant.”

The Renaissance zone revitalized downtown and before the program started property values were decreasing, but now they are worth a whole lot more.

“The values within the current renaissance zone boundary were just about under 100 million and now through 2016 they’re over 200 million and more than doubled in that 12-15 year period, says Lee. 

Fireflour started in 2012. Now, in their fifth year of business, their owner Kenny Howard says the program was an incentive for him to take his business off the street and into a solid foundation.  

“It’s something we looked in as soon as we were looking downtown for a space it was something we looked at and tried to go through the program and get it established,” says Kenny Howard, Owner of FireFlour Pizza. 

Howard says it’s not just his business that saw a benefit from the renaissance zone project.

“I think its just a really good program to help the revitalization of downtown just to kind of see it developing,” says Howard. 

Before the project, city organizers say downtown Bismarck had no life, now they credit the program with making it the place to be.

Lee adds, “Almost everyone comes downtown to do things now where in 2000 they didn’t do that, so you see people downtown of all hours of the day, it has really brought life back to downtown.” 

July 31st is the deadline for the school board, city commission and park board will all host separate meetings to decide whether or not the project will continue. 

This was just an informative meeting, no decisions yet, but only a couple voices expressed concern in continuing the program. 

Any project that has been approved before the July 31st date will still receive the 5 years of incentives they signed up for.

Thank you Heidi for that live report. 

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