Here's How Opportunity Zones May Affect Orlando Development

Eddy Moratin has seen what revitalization through development can do for communities, including west of downtown Orlando.

The president of Lift Orlando, a nonprofit that partners business leaders with residents on community revitalization projects in the West Lakes neighborhood, has done work related to that with the 200-unit Pendana at West Lakes mixed-income apartments. But, as Moratin’s firm continues work on the $23.5 million, second phase of the facility, a new potential incentive has become available for developers to use.

The Qualified Opportunity Zone program, established by U.S. Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, seeks to draw business investment in low-income areas by offering tax incentives on certain projects. In Orlando, there are 12 opportunity zones, including the West Lake community where Lift does community work, where private investment could be driven by these incentives.

Here, Moratin shares more with Orlando Business Journal on what opportunity zones may bring to the area, including potential pitfalls:

How do opportunity zones fit in with what Lift is doing west of downtown? Our work started long before the opportunity zones were a reality, but the promise of the opportunity zones being a tool for the benefit of the community that creates the assets and investments we are all proud of fits our main objective. That is to develop a high standard of excellence, things that benefit the community and make us proud Orlandoans.

What sort of pros and cons could these zones have in the area? It’s tricky. It’s exciting to release any sort of capital program that could help accelerate community change. The way opportunity zones are structured, they are free of some of the restrictions of federal dollars meant for community revitalization. But, that also can lead to a lot of investments or transactions that do not benefit the community. Just because development comes to a neighborhood that has not had development, does not mean that community will benefit. Therein lies the double-edged sword involved with opportunity zones. By and large, most people setting aside funds for opportunity zones are seeking a great return on their investment. Thinking about it from an investment perspective, that will color the type of things they invest in.

What kind of concepts are best suited for opportunity zone investment? There are certain concepts where housing applies to opportunity zone investment, though it isn’t directly a source of housing funding. The idea of providing, where housing applies, a certain number of units that are affordable and geared toward a high standard of quality and amenities, that is not a lesser standard of housing because of affordability. When you think of employers with a lot of entry level jobs, like manufacturers, call centers and distribution centers — the kinds of places where you can start without a degree, become a manager and have some upward mobility — those things also would be beneficial for folks to increase their income in the area. As well, that might look or behave like anything you might see in Winter Park or Lake Nona, but might make sense because of the logistical convenience. The problem with neighborhoods on the west side is we often get relegated to projects or developments that other neighborhoods would never want — some things that are unsightly, unethical or uninviting and don’t contribute to increasing value. That, we wouldn’t want, but things that create jobs, are pleasing and contributing to the community would be a great asset.

  Source:  OBJ


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