Jefferson Parish to use future sales tax revenue for improvements around Ochsner campuses _lowres

Location of New Economic Development District

Jefferson Parish has created an economic development district around Ochsner Health System’s Jefferson Highway campuses and will use some of the future sales tax revenue collected there for public infrastructure and beautification projects to complement the hospital operator’s planned $360 million expansion.

The Parish Council approved the district’s creation at its meeting last week. The ordinance said upcoming additions to Ochsner’s existing north and south campuses, along with the new west campus planned at the former Jefferson Plaza site, will be “a driving force behind economic development, job creation and growth in the parish.”

The district — which runs from the Earhart Expressway to River Road and from Causeway Boulevard to the Jefferson-Orleans parish line — will depend on growth in the 0.5-cent sales tax that is dedicated to the parish’s general fund.

The parish will take any revenue from that tax above the amount collected from within the district in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, and use it for public infrastructure improvements within the district.

The idea behind economic development districts — sometimes called tax-increment financing districts — is that the government gets to keep the revenue it would have had without a particular project but agrees to use the extra tax revenue generated by the project for a specific purpose.

In this case, that purpose is the construction, improvement and maintenance of streets, sidewalks, sewerage and drainage infrastructure, lighting, utilities, traffic signals and landscaping within the district.

Unlike some similar districts, there is no cap on the dollar amount of the extra tax involved and no end date.

Ochsner estimates the additional tax at a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year, which it says could be bonded out to generate $3.5 million, along with any federal grants the money could be used to secure.

Councilman Paul Johnston, whose district includes the Ochsner campuses, said the economic development district will further boost the impact the hospital’s expansion will have on the area.

“We are excited about Ochsner’s expansion as well as the revitalization that it will bring to the Jefferson Highway corridor,” Parish President Mike Yenni said in a statement. “Ochsner has been a great community partner, and their development will have a significant economic impact not only in Jefferson Parish but in the entire region.”

Ochsner laid out many of the details of its expansion plans in February. On the north and south campuses, the company will add six floors to its main hospital tower, double the size of the Gayle & Tom Benson Cancer Center and build an outpatient diagnostic imaging center.

At the nearby site of the former Jefferson Plaza shopping center, Ochsner will build a five-story, $56 million inpatient rehabilitation hospital and a $6 million outpatient clinic for physical and occupational therapy. That site will have retail space as well.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.