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City Council voted on March 26 to begin the notice and hearing process necessary to create a new Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, district encompassing Evanston Plaza shopping center at Dempster Street and Dodge Avenue. Several months ago Council engaged consultants to study three possible TIF locations – Main Street and Chicago Avenue, Dempster-Dodge plaza, and downtown west of the tracks. The Dempster-Dodge area is the first to reach the public notice stage.
The shopping center went through foreclosure and was owned by Bank of America until Bonnie Management purchased it in December. According to the staff memo and Nancy Radzevich, the City’s Economic Development Division Manager, Bonnie Management has been in negotiations with potential tenants for the space. Negotiations cannot be concluded, according to materials presented to Council, until the TIF has been established. As a result, the City fast tracked this TIF.
The area covered by the TIF would include the shopping center itself and virtually nothing else other than a short and recently repaved stretch of Dodge Avenue between Dempster and Greenleaf streets. The new TIF would be surrounded on three sides by the existing (and twice amended) West Evanston TIF.
Ms. Radzevich and the consulting report provided by TIF consultants Kane McKenna said the shopping center was not included in the West Evanston TIF earlier because its assessed value was too high. The Kane McKenna report said the area is now considered “blighted” and thus is eligible to be in a TIF district. Recent reassessments completed in 2009 and 2010 brought the value down to the point that a TIF made sense, according to the Kane McKenna report.
Currently, the shopping center has an assessed value of about $10.8 million. Kane McKenna estimates that over the 23-year life of the TIF the value will increase $25-$30 million. While taxing bodies such as Cook County, the two School Districts and City would continue to receive all property taxes paid on the $10.8 million assessed value, any taxes received as a result of an increase in assessed property value would, under Illinois TIF law, remain in the TIF district to be used to pay for improvement projects, infrastructure and the like. Examples of uses of TIF funds are building sidewalks, sewers and signage; improving roadways, subsidizing interest rates subsidies for a property owner in the TIF; and site work such as preparation, remediation, demolition or rehabilitation of existing structures.
The ordinances passed by Council start the process needed to establish the TIF. Public notice will now issue, including written notice to all residences within 750 feet of the proposed TIF district. A joint review board composed of representatives from taxing bodies that would be affected, will meet on April 12 to study the TIF. A decision is expected within 30 days. If the schedule holds, then the TIF will be before Council by May 28.