Lehigh Valley

Tax zone incentive drawing more people to Easton

EASTON, Pa. - Some residents in Easton are saving big bucks by moving into the renovated Simon Silk Mill property.

Developers say the tax incentive of a special zoning district closes the deal for many.

For years the Simon Silk Mill sat vacant with no signs of development.  Then in 2013, the property was designated as a Keystone Opportunity Zone, meaning for 10 years the developer doesn't pay real estate taxes.

The Keystone Opportunity Zone, also known as the KOZ, is a way for cities to attract developers to properties by providing some tax relief.

"It helps the developer attract both residents and/or businesses to their sites," said Gretchen Rice, a consultant for VM Development Group.

Four years after it was designated a KOZ, the Silk Mill property is quickly filling up. Businesses are opening, and phase one of the newly-opened luxury apartments is 80 percent occupied.

Karen Ford started off by opening her business Balloon Works at the property, but now just three weeks later, she wants to move in.

"I found out about the KOZ and I didn't know that would also apply to living here," she said.

Residents living in a KOZ get a break on Pennsylvania state income tax, and they also don't have to pay the city of Easton earned income tax. The amount of savings is dependent on your income and tax liability.

"If you're making $100,000 and you're saving approximately, $5,000 in taxes, that's close to $500 a month that you can put towards your rent," Rice said.

Ford said the money she saves will go back into her business and the community.

But this tax balloon does have a bursting point. The KOZ ends in 2023.

When the Silk Mill property does get added back to the tax roles in 2023, that will mean close to $1 million in revenue for Easton.

The Governor Wolf building is also designated as a KOZ property.

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