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'If we're going to think globally we have to act locally' | Meck County leaders vote on funding for Atrium Health Innovation District

Construction on the Atrium Health Innovation District could begin in the spring of 2022.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County leaders voted 6-2 Tuesday in favor of a tax incremental grant for the new Atrium Health Innovation District that will be anchored by Charlotte's new medical school

Atrium Health plans to bring businesses and research facilities to Midtown but the company needs Mecklenburg County’s help to do it. That money would come from tax breaks given by the county.  

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Atrium Health and Developer Wexford Science & Technology asked the county for roughly $38 million in tax breaks over 15 years.  

The county approved the deal that will reimburse Atrium and Wexford 90% of new property taxes over 15 years.  

The deal also secures that Mecklenburg County would bring in roughly $18 million in gains from property taxes over that same period.

“This project is an absolute winner for this community,” Commissioner Leigh Altman said before she voted in favor of it. “And once it's built -- they will start to owe taxes to Mecklenburg County. So they are creating revenue that does not currently exist.”  

The project is expected to bring Charlotte’s first four-year medical school,  a business school, four research towers, residential space, retail space, a hotel, and 11,500 jobs over 15 years, with nearly 2,000 of them created by 2025. 

“This is surely the most transformational project in our lifetimes,” Commissioner Pat Cotham, who voted in favor of the TIG, said. “If we're going to think globally we have to act locally.” 

However, others like Commissioners Susan Rodriguez-McDowell and Elaine Powell said they were all for a new medical school but they had concerns about the project furthering disparities. They also wanted to be part of the process from the beginning.  

“We need the taxes to take care of the needs of this unprecedented growth,” Powell said.  

Rodriguez-McDowell and Powell wanted to lessen the TIG to roughly $22 million over 15 years, calling that offer more balanced.  

"It's important to note there is no upfront money granted to Atrium Health or the project develop via the tax increment grants (TIG) that have been requested," a spokesman from Atrium Health said by email. "As the property is developed, the TIG funds offset some of the construction costs incurred for infrastructure costs that would normally be borne by the city and/or county – things like water, sewer, and power, as well as roads."

Construction for the new district could start in the spring of 2022, with the medical school sitting its first class in 2024.

Contact Hunter Sáenz at hsaenz@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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