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Rebuilding History toward a future By Andrew Branca When a tornado struck the city of Ennis in 2013, its downtown sustained a massive blow — both financially and culturally. In fact, some residents thought that its history might be permanently lost. However, residents, community leaders, and city officials are working to preserve that history and build a brighter future for the city with the downtown revitalization project that is underway. “The tornado significantly damaged five of our most historic downtown buildings. They were literally under threat of demolition. So a group of citizens organized themselves and said, ‘You know what, we are not going to let this happen.’ They petitioned our city commission and a grant program was created to try and preserve and restore our downtown buildings,” Ennis Development Coordinator Marty Nelson said. “That program was so successful that now it has led to the next step, which is an infrastructure investment and the creation of a downtown master plan. When you get to a downtown master plan, it is going to create a lot of projects. At the end of the day, you are going to have projects that are going to cost a lot more than any one source of funding can provide.” ESTABLISHMENT OF TIRZ

Nelson said some different revenue sources general fund and the remaining 75 percent have been developed over the past few years will go into the TIRZ fund. The Ellis County to make this master plan successful, which Commissioners Court at its Dec. 20 meeting include the City of Ennis and the city’s Eco- also approved this same 30-year agreement. nomic Development Corporation (EDC). To Nelson said the Downtown TIRZ covers an have long-term financing to revitalize down- eight-block area of the historic downtown town, a tax increment reinvestment zone that totals 297 acres of property. A second (TIRZ) was established. TIRZ will be established around the Interstate “Tax increment financing (TIF) works off of Highway 45 area. the new value of the zone. When you establish The City of Waxahachie has seen success a TIRZ, it has a baseline value and, for our through its TIRZ. Some of the projects they TIRZ, that value is about $66.5 million. So CONTINUED PAGE 27 as investment goes into the downtown and into the TIRZ the property value begins to appreciate,” Nelson said. “As the property values appreciate that begins to generate more property tax revenue.” Nelson said the City of Ennis agreed to establish a TIRZ. Under the agreement, 25 percent of new property tax value will Buildings in downtown Ennis sustained heavy damage from May 2013 go into the city’s tornado storm.

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