Downtown Sumter has undergone rapid growth over the past few years. New restaurants and businesses have opened, and a new Hyatt Place Hotel is scheduled to be completed in March. With the new hotel coming, we knew we would need more parking, so the city decided to build a parking garage at the corner of Hampton Avenue and Sumter Street. It officially opened on December 29.
One misconception many people have about the parking garage is that it is only for the use of hotel patrons. The garage is city owned and includes free public parking. There are 205 parking spaces, and about half will be designated for Hyatt customers. The garage benefits everyone, from those who shop or dine downtown to those who work or there.
The biggest misconception about the garage, though, concerns how it was funded. Many believe their taxes built the garage, but it was actually built with tax increment financing, or TIF. TIF is a public financing method that is used as a subsidy for redevelopment, infrastructure, and other community-improvement projects. A TIF district essentially reallocates funds from property taxes to encourage investment within that district. Any increased tax revenues collected as a result of an increase in property values then go into the TIF fund and can be used by the city for a wide range of purposes within the TIF district to promote redevelopment. In other words, only businesses or citizens within the designated downtown TIF district contributed any funds towards the parking garage (see TIF map below).
TIF District Map
Let’s say you own a business on Main Street downtown which falls within the TIF district. A percentage of your property taxes is allocated into the TIF fund. That fund is used for streetscape improvements, infrastructure improvements, and to build new structures-such as the new parking garage-within that TIF district. All of these improvements that you helped pay for benefit your business and increase your property value. These improvements also help draw new business into the district, such as hotels, and those new businesses pay into the TIF fund, which helps with infrastructure improvements, which in turn increases your property value.
A parking garage in downtown Sumter is very exciting, and it only stands to benefit everyone. The garage provides benefits to property owners in the form of increased property values and increased traffic and benefits the citizens of Sumter in the form of convenient parking and a more accessible downtown. A growing and prospering downtown is the heart of any strong community.