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State Press Play: Will Opportunity Zones reshape downtown Phoenix?

ASU real estate expert Mark Stapp breakdowns Opportunity Zones and how they might affect the city


Illustration published on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019.

The Phoenix Metro Area is leading the nation in population growth, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau in May. And now — development may pick up at an even quicker rate with the city's introduction of "Opportunity Zones."    

"Opportunity Zones" are a program certified in Arizona last year that is meant to bring development to low-income areas.  

These are areas where investors can fund development projects such as business or housing and those investors will not have to pay as much taxes on their capital gains, a discount that increases the longer the investment is held. 

READ MORE: State Press Play: How will Phoenix's rising rent impact students?

This program has been criticized by Mark Stapp, executive director of Real Estate Programs at ASU, for not truly encompassing low-income areas with "Opportunity Zones," which include: downtown Phoenix, downtown Scottsdale and Tempe Town Lake. 

“It has a big public cost with the taxes not collected, and no real requirement for public good," he said. 

There is also the concern about gentrification. 

Stapp said there is a "unintended consequence of creating significant amounts of investment into under-served communities without the requirements that provide any benefit for those residents, and shop owners and property owners in those communities."

Areas like these are hubs of city life and don’t need the investment program to see new construction projects. Still, the city refers to the “landmark legislation” with high hopes that it will engage new residential, business, research and entertainment projects.

Opportunity Zones could be good news for ASU students, particularly students on the Downtown campus. Students who attend colleges downtown often complain of safety concerns, lack of entertainment and lack of affordable housing — a key issue as students struggle to find space in dorms, according to Stapp. 

With the new designation and ASU’s role in Reinvent PHX (a cooperative fund that wants to create walkable communities along the light rail) students who live or study downtown could see new options for housing and entertainment. 

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