Ward Manufacturing is in the Southwest TIF. As an enticement to remain in Evanston, the company received TIF funds in 2011 to expand.  RoundTable photo

The Joint Review Board held its annual meeting on Dec. 5, to hear how well Evanston’s five tax-increment financing (TIF) districts performed in 2012.

In a TIF, the tax increment – the difference between the taxes on the property at the time the TIF was created (the “base”) and the taxes on the increased value of the property while the TIF is in effect – remains within the TIF to be used for public improvements. Examples of these improvements are sidewalks, sewers, parking garages, such as the Maple Avenue and Sherman Avenue garages in the downtown TIF districts, and economic development, such as Autobarn’s expansion into the Howard-Hartrey TIF. 

Because the reporting year was 2012, neither the Dempster-Dodge nor the Main-Chicago TIF, each created this year, was included in the report.  Counting those two TIFs and the recently retired Downtown II or “Research Park” TIF, the City has created eight since 1980. Typically a TIF is retired in its 24th year.

The five TIFs that were active in 2012 are the Southwest (Sam’s Club) TIF, Howard-Hartrey, Downtown I (Washington National), Howard-Ridge and West Evanston. 

The Joint Review Board is composed of representatives of all taxing districts that levy taxes on property in a TIF district. In Evanston, some of these taxing districts are School District 65, School District 202, Cook County, Ridgeville Park District, the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District, Evanston Township and Oakton Community College. Public member of the board Valerie Kretchmer attended the meeting along with representatives of Ridgeville Park District and both school districts.

As chair of the City’s Economic Development Committee, Eighth Ward Alderman Ann Rainey chaired the meeting. Robert Richlycki of Kane, McKenna, the City’s TIF consultant, also attended the meeting.

As a result of the Great Recession, Cook County reassessed downward the equalized assessed valuation (EAV) of the property in the TIFs, but in most cases value is returning, said Assistant City Manager/Treasure Martin Lyons.

Mr. Lyons and Economic Development Division Manager Johanna Nyden complemented the TIF reports with additional information.

Southwest TIF

 The Southwest TIF includes Sam’s Club, Ward Manufacturing and a few other parcels in southwest Evanston just east of the North Shore Channel and south of Main Street.

Created: 1990

Beginning EAV: $1 million

2012 EAV: $7 million

“Sam’s Club is one of the [economic] drivers in the area,” said Mr. Lyons. The most recent project  in that TIF was  in 2010, when Ward Manufacturing received about $700,000 to expand. He said there is “potential for a capital project there in 2014 to close out the TIF funds.”  If the capital project does not materialize, any surplus TIF funds will be distributed proportionally to the taxing bodies.

Howard-Hartrey TIF

The Howard Hartrey TIF includes the shopping plaza on Howard Street just east of McCormick Boulevard, with a Jewel Food Store, a Target, Best Buy and other big-box stores. The TIF was expanded in 2013 to include the long-vacant property behind the shopping plaza, which Autobarn plans to use to store many of its vehicles.

Created: 1992

Beginning EAV: $7, 034,353

2012 EAV: $21,866,716 (Autobarn parcel not included)

The expansion is a “win-win,” said William Stafford, chief financial officer of School District 202 – a “win-win-win,” Ald. Rainey interjected – “because this will add to the pie and make it even better,” Mr. Stafford continued.  He said Evanston Township High School has a great relationship with Autobarn; the company has contributed significantly to the high school’s auto-tech lab, has provided interns to ETHS students and now employs three ETHS graduates. “We could not think of a better employer,” Mr. Stafford said.

“There will be 30 new employees. This is absolutely classic for TIF purposes,” said Ald. Rainey. 

Mr. Lyons said the TIF “will obviously change drastically because of Autobarn before it closes.”

Washington National (Downtown I) TIF

This TIF extends roughly from Church/Chicago down Chicago Avenue to Davis Street, over to the Sherman Plaza development, north to Church Street (south side) – several parcels excluded. The TIF was expanded in 2009 to include Fountain Square, so TIF funds could be used to rehab the plaza there.

Created: 1994

Beginning EAV: $25,727,379

2012 EAV: $85,291,864

Some of the Davis Street construction in the downtown area was financed through TIF funds, Mr. Lyons said. Ms. Kretchmer asked about future development of the vacant lot on Davis Street between Chicago and Orrington avenues to develop a 35-story retail-residential development on Church Street between Orrington and Sherman Avenues expired on Dec. 31, 2013.

“We’re still working on those,” Mr. Lyons said.

Ms. Kretchmer asked about development along the east side of Orrington Avenue between Davis and Church streets – property not in the TIF. Referring to the “old, old Border’s store” there – not the “new, old” Border’s store on Maple Avenue – Ms. Nyden said the area is fully leased. A restaurant called Life Kitchen is relocating to the rotunda at Davis Street and Orrington Avenue, she said.

“This TIF took a big hit in the reassessment,” said Mr. Lyons. Before that reassessment, the EAV was close to $100 million, but now it is down to about $85 million.

“By 2018 [the closing year], this will be well over $100 million,” Mr. Stafford said.

Howard-Ridge TIF

This TIF includes property on the north side of Howard Street from Ridge Avenue east to the City limit and a small portion of Chicago Avenue north of Howard Street.

Created: 2004

Beginning EAV: $5,978,279

2012 EAV: $14,847,843

The apartment complex at 415 Howard St. was the centerpiece of the TIF for several years after the TIF was created. Since then, the City of Evanston has purchased property on Howard Street in the TIF and executed two rent-to-own leases to bars there – Ward Eight Wine Bar (open for a year) and Peckish Pig (soon to open).

 “Having the 415 [development] is a huge improvement,” Mr. Lyons said. The bulk of the EAV is based on the assessment of that property: “The EAV rises and falls with 415,” he said. “What that means is that Ward Eight and the Peckish Pig are going to have a big impact.”

West Evanston TIF

This TIF district is roughly a parallelogram-shaped TIF that runs from Simpson Street to Greenleaf Street, excluding residential properties and ETHS, and on Church Street east of Dodge Avenue to Ashland Avenue and west to Brown Avenue. It roughly parallels the berm of the old Mayfair railroad spur, still visible across from ETHS and a few other places in the area.

Created: 2005

Base EAV: $37,477,570

2012 EAV: $38,542,073

Because there is a minimal residential component to the TIF and the business development has been slow, Mr. Lyons said he expects that the EAV in 2013 will be lowered to about $36 million. Still, he said, “We have good plans and we hope for rejuvenation. We will continue to work with ETHS and with the aldermen of the two wards [Second Ward Alderman Peter Braithwaite and Fifth Ward Alderman Delores Holmes].” He said that, since much of the property is vacant, demolition costs will be minimal, but there will be remediation costs.

 “I think [the area] will come back. The West Side did take a bigger hit, proportionally – but it will come back,” said Mr. Stafford. “From District 202’s point of view, the West Evanston TIF is our partnership with the City … and we will do anything we can to help with development there.”

“What about the Robinson Bus lot [on Emerson Street]? Has anything been done there?” Ms. Kretchmer asked.

“Slowly but surely we’re implementing the West Evanston Plan,” said Ms. Nyden. “One issue the Robinsons will have to deal with is that Autobarn has been storing cars there [and now those will be moved to the Howard-Hartrey property]. As things shift in other places, things happen,” she added.

“This is still a TIF-in-waiting,” Mr. Lyons said, “and we want to … be able to take action like [the City] did in the 1990s – changing the vision.”

Copies of the TIF reports are available in pdf format at cityofevanston.org.

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...