SIOUX CITY | As it works to renew its special property tax district for another five years, Downtown Partners plans to expand its boundaries to include a bar, a new mixed-use development, riverfront property and a hospital complex.

The new properties would be Doxx Warehouse Bar, Ho-Chunk Inc.'s Virginia Square commercial and residential development, the future site of Sioux City's riverfront development, and the remaining portions of the Mercy Medical Center -- Sioux City campus.

Formed in 1993 as a Main Street program, Downtown Partners promotes business interests in the historic core of the city. The organization operates through a self-supported municipal improvement district, in which it levies a tax on property owners within the district and funds a range of activities aimed at fostering downtown revitalization.

That includes financing beautification projects, giving grants to individual businesses for building improvements and sponsoring public events. 

The group must request renewal of the district every five years through a petition of property owners. State law requires signatures of at least 25 percent of the taxing district's property owners and a representation of at least 25 percent of the district's land value to move forward with district renewal. 

Downtown Partners shared its new district map with the City Council two weeks ago and has begun approaching businesses to gather their support for the district, as well as make contact and receive feedback. 

If it receives the required support, final approval will go through the Planning and Zoning Commission and council.

Doxx Warehouse Bar, 1219 Fifth St., opened in late 2013. The bar is built on the former site of Recyletronics.

Doxx owner Pauly Andersen -- who also owns the next-door Firehouse Bar, which is already in the Downtown Partners district -- said he doesn't want Doxx to be a part of the district and plans to let Downtown Partners know, although he doesn't believe there's any way to prevent it from happening.  

"We pay extra taxes and aren't getting anything out of it," he said, pointing to other establishments, such as the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, that he believes receive more benefit than smaller businesses such as his. 

Downtown Partners Executive Director Ragen Cote said she believes Doxx should be in the district because it sits directly next to Firehouse, which is already in the district. 

"For the next renewal, it's almost like we have to," she said. "There's no way we could serve the Firehouse and not serve Doxx." 

She added that the district would value the opinions and input it has to offer for downtown initiatives. 

Virginia Square is a nearly $36 million mixed use downtown development that includes the redevelopment of four former industrial buildings in the area of the 100 block of Virginia Street for residential and commercial use by Ho-Chunk Inc., the economic development corporation for the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.

Ho-Chunk president and CEO Lance Morgan said in a statement that his organization supports inclusion in the Downtown Partners district. 

“We think it is great," he said. "Virginia Square is about to be the gateway to downtown, and we intend to make it as welcoming as possible.”

The riverfront property encompasses all of the planned riverfront development, which will add park amenities to the former Argosy riverboat casino site after the Interstate 29 reconstruction is completed in 2020. The land extends to the Floyd River channel. 

Cote said some of the area included could grow into commercial development in the future. 

The Mercy properties slated for inclusion would not be required to pay the levy since the hospital is tax-exempt, but Cote said the addition will help round out the district's boundaries.

In 2013, the district's previous renewal expanded the district by about four blocks to the west. It also reduced the two-tiered property tax levied on downtown properties to a single rate.

Some property owners had fought their inclusion, but the properties ended up being included into the district. 

The current district encompasses 530 properties. Downtown Partners wields an approximately $348,000 budget to fund improvements, marketing and other expenses. Its current levy equals about $214 for every $100,000 of assessed valuation.

The organization's budget also pays for staff in its Pierce Street office who advocate for stakeholders and serve as a liaison to the city on downtown-related interests.

Cote said upcoming projects for Downtown Partners include installing new way-finding signage downtown, a recommendation made in a 2016 study by consultant Roger Brooks, as well as improving downtown lighting and working on the future riverfront development. 

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City hall reporter

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