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At its Oct. 2 meeting, the Joint Review Board, composed of all bodies that levy a tax on the property tax bills of Evanston property-owners, approved a recommendation to City Council that it approve a TIF (tax increment financing) district in the Main/Chicago area.
Under State TIF rules, a “quorum” is “members present,” said Bob Rychlicki of Kane, McKenna, the City’s TIF consultant. Thus unanimous approval by the JRB consisted of six votes: those of the five members present and one by letter.
A TIF can last for up to 23 years, and during that period, the tax increment can be used for several purposes, such as economic development and infrastructure upgrades, within the TIF district. The “base” amount – the property tax revenue on the property as it goes into the TIF – is shared as usual by the taxing bodies. The “increment” – the additional tax revenue as the property is improved – remains in the TIF until it is closed. For that reason, all interested taxing bodies are allowed to weigh in on a proposed TIF.
The proposed TIF stretches along Main Street, from Elmwood Avenue to the alley east of Chicago Avenue, and along Chicago Avenue from Dempster Street to South Boulevard.
Mr. Rychlicki said several factors qualify the area for a “conservation” TIF district: the age of the buildings (half of them are 80 years old), the “relatively dense” land use, the differing uses of the land (commercial, residential and transportation), and the deteriorating sidewalks, viaducts and other parts of the infrastructure. The City has been encouraging the owner of the vacant property on the southeast corner of Main Street and Chicago Avenue to establish an office building there.
While he acknowledged that the Main/Chicago area has a thriving commercial district, Mr. Rychlicki said it could either move forward with the TIF or “go backward.”
Alderman Melissa Wynne, whose Third Ward encompasses part of the proposed TIF, spoke in favor of it.
John Szoztek, founder and director of Piccolo Theater and who has been active in the arts and business in the area, was elected the member-at-large for the JRB meeting. He said there has been a lot of planning for the area. “There are problems of how to finance it. Everybody wants it to improve.”
A public hearing on the proposed TIF is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. on Nov. 12 in City Council chambers, and City Council has the ultimate authority to approve the TIF.