Officials say TIF district projects making progress

Caitlin Carter

Bowling Green officials and WKU administrators hope the words downtown and WKU will become synonymous in the near future.

At Tuesday’s Bowling Green City Commission meeting, Kevin Brooks, attorney for the Warren County Downtown Economic Development Authority, gave a quarterly report on the Bowling Green Tax Increment Financing District.

The TIF district, which spans from WKU’s campus to the Barren River, was created in 2007 to revive downtown by giving tax incentives to new businesses that open there. If the district reaches $150 million in investment by 2014, the state will grant an 80 percent tax reimbursement.


Brooks said he is optimistic that the city will reach this goal, even with the recent economic downswing.

“We have every reason to be proud of what we’ve accomplished so far,” Brooks said.

The Block 12 area of the district, also known as the WKU Gateway to Downtown Bowling Green, is planned to house the Augenstein Alumni Center, WKU police headquarters, a parking garage, a hotel and upperclassmen student housing, President Gary Ransdell said.

The downtown development group is underway in constructing the parking garage, Ransdell said.

WKU’s Student Life Foundation will build student apartments that wrap around the parking garage once it’s completed, Ransdell said. He said construction will begin this summer, and it is set to open by fall 2012.

“At the same time, we’ll begin constructing the WKU Store, the coffee shop and small fresh market,” Ransdell said. “And I would hope that we’d begin construction of the alumni center and conference center this summer as well.”

While WKU is not involved in the hotel construction, Ransdell said he’s ready for a developer to commit.

“I’m kind of anxious to get that done, because that’s a key part to this whole Block 12 configuration,” Ransdell said.

Outside of Block 12, WKU is involved in another area of the TIF district, Ransdell said.

“We’ve got two sides of the TIF — one related to constituent amenities and one related to health care,” he said.

Ransdell said WKU plans to lease a medical center campus in the TIF district that will house the nursing baccalaureate and doctorate degree programs, along with the doctorate of physical therapy degree program if the legislation is approved this spring.

Ransdell said the building, which would become the largest medical complex in the region, would be leased entirely through nursing tuition revenues.

WKU hopes to double the enrollment of the nursing program with this project, he said.

“Right now we can’t grow our nursing program,” Ransdell said. “Generally speaking, we’re only accepting one in four. There’s a great capacity of talent to grow our nursing program, provided we had the space and we could hire the necessary nursing faculty.”

Ransdell said as downtown Bowling Green grows, the university reaps benefits.

“Downtown Bowling Green and the campus are intrinsically linked,” Ransdell said. “The whole intent is to bring the university and downtown together and pump energy and business development into the downtown area.”