LERTA paves way for more bayfront development – Something good happened in Erie, 7/12/2019

Scott Enterprises’ first hotel under construction at Erie’s east bayfront. | Photo via Jack Hanrahan, Erie Times-News.

Without further ado, your Idiotville feel-good story of the week:

https://www.goerie.com/news/20190711/lerta-could-clear-way-for-new-hotel-on-eries-bayfront

A few stipulations before we dive into this week’s good news. First, the economy is humming along at near full employment, so this might not seem like a great time for a big tax cut like LERTA. Second, if there’s one thing you can count on hearing during a tax cut debate, it’s that it will “spur business investment.” The truth on that score is often underwhelming.

On the other hand, even near full employment there is still plenty of vacant property around here so if cutting taxes to spur investment is ever a good idea, maybe it’s here and now in Erie. Lord knows it’s been hard for downtown development to gain traction for decades in Erie, during good times and bad.

So, Erie took a chance and reinstated a big, multi-year tax break on new development. It’s not a “permanent” tax giveaway, either. If you get a LERTA tax break, you get a discount for up to 10 years before you’re back to paying the same as the rest of us schmoes. Will this work? Will it bring some much needed development to Idiotville?

Maybe! Nick Scott Sr., president of Scott Enterprises says he is moving ahead with plans to build a second hotel on his east bayfront property, right next to the first one still under construction and likely of a similar size. That’s another 95 rooms for something like $18 million. Big win for the tax break, right?

Well, building a second hotel had always been part of Scott’s master plan for this space. So while it seems like the tax break definitely sped this up, it’s hard to know whether foregoing 10 years of tax revenues will be worth it in the long term for a city that can use as much as possible in the general fund.

You know what, though? Maybe it’s not worth diving into all the hairy economic details today. We’re finally getting some private development along the bayfront! Let’s just be happy that someone is spending millions down there. I’m shocked that Scott would begin another hotel before the first one is complete, but whatever. Good for us!

Really, who among us wouldn’t trade the skeezy Erie Hotel for a new swanky one on the water. That’s what this is about. Out with the old, in with the new.

UPMC Hamot and Saint Vincent are each spending over $100 million on new facilities in the years to come, the Bayfront Convention Center is an established success, and hotels are now popping up in bunches down on the water. There is an emerging tech startup cluster. There’s beer everywhere! We’re leading the country in Opportunity Zone ventures.

Good Lord, there are some good things going on around here. Scott Enterprises’ newest hotel announcement is just the latest addition to our momentum.

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