Ludwig Kuttner, owner of the IX complex, threatened last week to stop the community events held at the Art Park because its city land assessment went up 400 percent. And on August 7, the Board of Equalization said it was affirming the city’s valuation.
At an August 1 board hearing, Kuttner complained that the land value assessment on the 6.78-acre portion of IX, the scene of more than 100 cultural and civic events last year, skyrocketed from $1.13 million in 2016 to $4.54 million in 2017.
“That’s a huge amount for nonprofits,” says Kuttner. Taxing the property at its best and highest use—the mantra for commercial assessments—puts the Art Park, where events like the satellite Women’s March or various fundraisers are held, at the same rate as what a Marriott hotel would be assessed, he adds.
Located at the site of the former Frank Ix and Sons textile plant, the IX Art Park is part of 17 acres between Monticello and Elliott avenues that are in the city’s Strategic Investment Area, which stresses affordable housing.
Tenants include a sculptor and Tinkersmiths Makerspace, which offers workshops and space for fabrication. Kuttner says he has five tenants who get space at a low rate, and that he loses between $100,000 and $150,000 on those rents.
The upper level of the building that houses those tenants and the indoor stage will become the new home of Three Notch’d Brewing. When finished, the brewery will push the parcel’s assessment up even more, Kuttner’s attorney, Susan Krischel, says.
Land assessments also went up on the 10.75-acre portion of the property where Brazos Tacos and the Newsplex are located. Krischel says IX is challenging those as well, but she especially objects to the assessment on the parcel used for civic space. “The costs have to be passed onto tenants,” she says.
Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville President Joan Fenton believes assessments should be based on use and rents, not what the highest use for a property could be.
“[Kuttner’s] turned that into a public good,” says Fenton. “They’ve taken an empty lot and turned it into something special downtown.”
With the skyrocketing 2017 commercial assessments, she says it seems the city is saying, “Screw all your tenants, screw all the good you’re trying to do and get more money.”
Fenton owns a property that she leases to a nonprofit roots music school. “I could get more rent but I think it’s important to have [The] Front Porch on the mall,” she says.
Nonprofit usage, however, is not the mission of the city assessors or the Board of Equalization. “We’re charged to look at the fair market value,” says board member Paul Muhlberger.
The IX property is unique, he says, and “it’s hard to compare apples to apples,” but it’s still a “really valuable piece of property.”
He also notes that Kuttner has no deeded restrictions on the property limiting use to nonprofits, and a buyer could come in at any time and turn it into a high-end commercial use.
Muhlberger has attended events at the IX Art Park and says he’s sympathetic, “but this is not the Board of Equalization’s charge. It’s fair market value.”
Kuttner says vision “has to be supported and nurtured. I’m sad that bureaucracy won out and that the city couldn’t find a way to support what thousands of people in the community want and love.”