Council grants Chicago-Main TIF status
Evanston City Council members granted TIF status Monday to the area around the 700 block of Main Street, including a vacant lot just to the east where a developer is bidding to put up a mixed use office-retail building. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 2, 2013 6:58AM
EVANSTON — The City Council on Monday designated Chicago-Main as the city’s newest Tax Increment Finance district despite concerns raised by some that the area could be developed without TIF status.
Aldermen voted 7-2 Monday to designate the proposed Chicago-Main area as a TIF district.
Under TIF status, the designated area’s taxes are frozen at current levels for a 23-year-period, with officials allowed to put any incremental revenues generated by the development back into the project.
Officials have set a $25 million budget for the TIF, and are projecting equalized assessed valuation for the area of approximately $30 to $35 million once the development is up and running.
Members of the City Council have turned increasingly to TIFs as an economic development tool in recent years.
At Chicago Avenue and Main Street, officials hope to use TIF funds to redevelop and improve key parcels in the area, including what they termed “deteriorating” infrastructure. In addition, a significant focus of the district is the redevelopment of a vacant parcel at the southeast corner into mixed-use retail/office building, officials said.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, in whose Third Ward the parcel is located, called designation of a TIF for the area Monday “a transformational moment” for Evanston.
Speaking at the council meeting, Wynne spoke of TIFs’ use elsewhere, including in the Downtown area, when she first came on the council in 1997. She said the Downtown TIF, which also faced opposition, eventually led to that area’s renaissance.
“Here we are looking at a corner almost like no other corner in all the Chicago area,’’ she said. “Main and Chicago has an empty lot and two transportation lines within striking distance of Chicago,’’ she said.
“With money available, this is our opportunity to create jobs and put them right at that corner,” she said.
Alderman Coleen Burrus, the lone council member to speak out against the TIF (Alderman Don Wilson voted against it but didn’t address the issue), questioned the need for the special designation.
“This isn’t a blighted area,” she said of one of the criteria the city’s consultant Kane, McKenna said qualified the area as a TIF. “There are infrastructure issues,” she acknowledged. “There are infrastructure issues throughout the community.”
Rather the issue is about an office building, which the city has engaged a private developer to build, she said.
Burrus questioned whether the city needs an office building, noting officials had rejected three other development proposals for the corner.
Further, without the large TIF assistance, “the developer would have built an office building and people would have been in there,” if that’s what he chose to do, she suggested.
In this case, “we’re being asked to take the entire risk.”
Wynne acknowledged the city did receive three other development proposals for the corner.
However, she said all three were proposals to build drug stores that would include drive-throughs, which city traffic officials had deemed unsafe (The city had provided no information previously about the drug store issue).
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th, said she would support the proposal, though she regarded the TIF “the least exciting” of those that have come before the council.
She took issue with Wynn’s designation of TIF status for the area as “transformational,’’ noting the aldermen had failed to back her the previous week on an effort to finance construction of a theater in the Howard Street area, long regarded in much worse shape than the Chicago-Main area.
Earlier, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz spoke strongly in support of the TIF and the potential to generate revenue in light of previous years layoffs and budget cuts.
Bobkiewicz suggested the TIF support could be a springboard for transit station improvements in the area. He said a mayoral-appointed TIF committee could provide spending oversight.