Evanston news delivered free to your inbox!
Over the past two weeks, City Council has wrestled with three different tax-increment financing (TIF) districts: one about to close and two that are under consideration.
One, the proposed Dempster-Dodge Evanston Plaza TIF, was tabled by Council pending discussions with the shopping center’s largest tenant, Dominick’s.
A second, the proposed Chicago-Main TIF, was pulled off the agenda at the request of Third Ward Alderman MelissaWynne in an effort to expand it to include more businesses.
A third, the mature Howard-Hartrey TIF, distributed surplus assets to eligible taxing districts, though $300,000 less than staff recommended.
A Dempster-Dodge TIF
The proposed Dempster-Dodge TIF has run into opposition from at least three aldermen who have expressed concern over a single-owner, single-parcel TIF district and the lack of a coherent plan in the TIF documents. Aldermen Don Wilson, 4th Ward, and Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, have argued against the district for weeks. They were joined at the June 11 meeting by Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, who said, “I too, am uncomfortable with this TIF at this time” because of its single-owner, single-parcel nature.
Ald. Wilson focused more on the lack of an overall plan. “We don’t know what this will look like in the beginning, the middle or the end,” he said. “We got more plans for chicken coops that we have gotten here.”
Ald. Burrus said that Council “has other economic development tools that we could use that would not lock us in for 23 years.” Under state law, a TIF district remains in place for 23 years unless it can be closed early.
Ald. Wynne said that she was not troubled by the lack of a plan document, because “these TIFs are frameworks for us to create the plan within them.”
With Alderman Jane Grover absent and three aldermen opposed, Alderman Ann Rainey encouraged the TIF proposal’s main sponsor, Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, to hold back a vote. Because TIFs are changes in zoning, they require a super-majority (two-thirds) Council vote to approve, and a 5-3 vote would not suffice.
Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said that she needed more information, specifically from Dominick’s, before she felt comfortable voting on the TIF. The Dominick’s lease gives the grocery store veto power over many tenants that might wish to move into the center.
Ald. Holmes has long supported a bowling alley or other family entertainment venue, but these uses might be prohibited unless Dominick’s can be persuaded to waive its veto power over what it considers parking-intensive uses. Ald. Holmes said that while she supports the TIF she would like to wait.
Council moved to table the TIF ordinances pending discussions with Dominick’s. The motion carried, 5-3, with Alds. Braithwaite, Wynne and Judy Fiske (1st Ward) voting no.
A Chicago-Main TIF
The proposed Chicago-Main TIF district is currently shaped like a large cross running along the train tracks from South Boulevard to Dempster Street and along Main Street between Elmwood Avenue and the alley east of Chicago Avenue.
Ald. Wynne, whose Third Ward encompasses part of the proposed TIF, asked Council to remove this proposed TIF from the agenda because other businesses in her ward felt that they should be included in the proposed district.
The memo from Kane McKenna, the consultants paid $80,000 to advise the City on this and the Dempster-Dodge TIF, said of the Main-Chicago TIF: “The current lending environment makes the development at this site solely through private [sources] impossible.” The area, it continues, presents significant redevelopment challenges because it has “declined or is in danger of declining toward a blighted condition.”
The proposed TIF district is just two blocks north of the new, privately funded AMLI development and steps further from the Southpointe Plaza shopping center that is about to undergo major, privately funded renovations.
After additional “declining” business parcels are added, the revised proposed TIF district will return to Council for consideration.
The Howard-Hartrey TIF was the subject of early closure discussions, but staff has, according to its memo, removed that from consideration. Instead, the annual distribution of surplus TIF funds to taxing bodies was on the table.
Under state law, a TIF must distribute a percentage of surplus monies in the fund to taxing bodies that would have collected that money but for the TIF. The minimum distribution under the law, according to the staff memo, would have been about $650,000. Staff recommended $1.3 million.
Ald. Rainey protested, asking that the distribution be reduced by $300,000, which would be kept for use within the district. Without comment or discussion, Council agreed and the distribution was amended from $1.3 million to $1 million.