Evanston pushing for another TIF district
The City of Evanston is considering whether to grant TIF status to the Chicago Avenue-Main Street area. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 19, 2012 11:15AM
EVANSTON — It’s old, Good’s of Evanston owner Shaun Chinsky would agree.
He cringes at that description of the Chicago-Main Street area the city is using to qualify its newest Tax Increment Finance District.
“You’re in the wrong place,” he said Tuesday to visitors standing in his framing shop. “I’ve put a hundreds of thousands of dollars into this building in the last couple years.”
Chinsky was one of three speakers at the city’s initial public hearing Monday night held to establish the area at Main and Chicago as a TIF district.
City officials say a vacant parcel at the southeast corner of Main and Chicago is a “significant focus” in their move to designate the area a TIF.
Overall, they say, a TIF provides a tool for both the city and the property owners within the district “to redevelop and improve key vacant parcels, invest in deteriorating infrastructure, and maintain the overall commercial district in the Main Street and Chicago Avenue area.”
The business district’s location is also a factor in its appeal, they say.
Main and Chicago is “one of only five locations in the region where both the CTA and Metra are joined, and we really should take advantage of both of those there next to each other,” city Economic Development planner Johanna Nyden told city council members Monday.
Under a TIF, property taxes are frozen at their current levels, with the incremental revenue generated by the development going into the TIF and related expenses. This TIF would last for 23 years.
Critics of TIFs say automatic designation of such areas can shift the tax burden onto other non-TIF areas; and argue that a better option often is to let such areas develop through the private market.
Kane McKenna and Associates, the city’s longtime consultant, which has qualified the city’s other TIF districts, with few reservations, found Chicago/ Main met six of 13 factors under the state TIF act.
The district qualified under such standards as obsolescence and deterioration, and lack of community planning, reported Bob Rychliki, the company’s executive vice president.
The projected TIF budget includes $2.5 for land acquisition assembly and relocation, $6 million in utility improvements, $5.5 for the renovation of existing public and private structures, and $4.5 million for public facilities, such as parking and streetscape.
“Because of the 23-year outlook, it is challenging to estimate or predict with precision,”’ officials acknowledged in their report.
Chinsky said he appreciates that the city is willing to invest funds into the area, particularly in bolstering aging infrastructure.
When officials first approached him, though, he said their goal for a TIF was to facilitate development of the office building at Main and Chicago which has failed to attract tenants, even though the city hired a firm to market the site.
When he received TIF documents the city had developed this summer, the core of the message was that the area is blighted, Chinsky said.
He expressed concern at statements in the preliminary TIF qualification report, which stated that “overall, the parcels within the proposed TIF District either have declined, or in danger of declining toward a blighted condition. This condition prevents, or threatens to the healthy economic and physical development of properties in a manner that community deems essential to its overall economic health.”
Chinsky agrees some of the buildings are old. Most of them, like his, were built at the turn of the century.
“That’s part of their charm,” he said.
Chinsky said he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars rehabbing his building at 714-716 Main several years ago and converting the business from art supplies to fine picture framing.
“We used to joke the early settlers of Evanston found our floor and built around it,’’ he said about the condition of the old tile floor which was removed in the rehab.
Officials are hoping to present final recommendations on the TIF at a public hearing to be held before the end of the year.
‘’I am happy they are willing to do economic development in our part of town,” stressed Chinsky. “I could support a program that invests in the area as a whole.
“All of us pay property taxes in the area. I think we’re entitled to have things spelled out.”