The Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center, at the corner of Church Street and Dodge Avenue, is in the West Evanston TIF district. RoundTable photo

Between 1985 and 2013 the City of Evanston created eight tax-increment financing (TIF) districts to spur economic development in throughout the City. Two of these have been closed – the Downtown II in 2009 and the Southwest in 2014 – and the other six are showing varying signs of economic growth, according to reports issued by the City late last fall. The reports cover the Howard-Hartrey, Washington National, Howard and Ridge, West Evanston, Dempster-Dodge, and Chicago-Main TIFs.

A TIF district typically lasts for 23 years, and during that time the tax increment – the difference between the property tax revenues on the property as unimproved and as improved – remains within the TIF and can be used for economic development, infrastructure, and the like. Both the Sherman Avenue and Maple Avenue garages in downtown Evanston were paid for through TIF financing.

When a TIF district is retired, the surplus funds are distributed among the other taxing bodies in the district – the two school districts, Oakton Community College, and the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District, as examples.

The City’s reports covered the economic development in and financial positions of each TIF for the calendar year 2015.

Howard-Hartrey TIF

Location/description: This TIF comprises the Howard-Hartrey Shopping Plaza.

Created: April 27 1992

Base Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV): $8,438,657

2015 EAV: $20, 537, 528

Economic activity: Often called “Evanston’s downtown,” this TIF is one of the most financially viable in the City. The shopping plaza houses a Target, a Best Buy, and a Jewel Food store. The boundary was expanded to include the commercial property at the rear of the plaza so Autobarn could use it to store some of the vehicles of its Chicago Avenue car dealerships and the service departments for its Mazda and Fiat dealerships. The City also gave Autobarn a forgivable loan of $2.5 million to improve the lot.

Washington National TIF

Location/description: This TIF, named for the former Washington National Insurance office building on Chicago Avenue south of Church Street, meanders from the southwest corner of Church Street and Chicago Avenue over to Fountain Square, Davis Street at Orrington/Sherman.

Created: Sept. 1, 1994

Base EAV: $25,727,379

2015 EAV: $72,761,397

Economic activity: The Washington National TIF was expanded in 1999 to include Fountain Square and some properties on Sherman Avenue. The Whole Foods building, the Park Evanston residential building, and the building housing Peet’s Coffee & Tea were among the first developments in this TIF. Later developments include Sherman Plaza and the parking garage there, improvements to the façade of Koi Restaurant and the Music Institute of Chicago.  Because the bonds for the garage are not wholly paid off and because of other expenditures, the TIF reported a deficit of $8,660,543 in 2015. It is expected that funds to rehab Fountain Square will come from this TIF, and some early costs for that project have been covered that way.

Howard and Ridge TIF

Location/description: This TIF is primarily located along the north (Evanston) side of Howard Street from Ridge Avenue east nearly to the CTA tracks.

Created: Jan. 26, 2004

Base EAV:: $5,978,279

2015 EAV: $10,992,983

Economic activity: The tall, 195-unit apartment building at 415 Howard St. was built in this TIF. Through 2015, the City paid the property tax bill on the building; and the amount of property taxes for which the City will be responsible was reduced by 15% in each subsequent year. The City also purchased the properties occupied by Ward 8, 629 Howard St., and Peckish Pig, 623 Howard St. Last fall, the owners of Ward 8 purchased the 629 Howard St. building.

With capital improvements and reimbursements to redevelopment projects totaling $1,060,000, the TIF reported a deficit of $1,088,621 in 2015.

West Evanston TIF

Location/description: This TIF stretches along Dodge Avenue between Emerson and Greenleaf streets, encompassing some of the commercial properties there, including those on some east-west streets such as Church and Greenleaf streets. It does not include Evanston Township High School or the residential properties there.

Created: Sept. 1, 2005

Base EAV: $37,477,570

2015 EAV: $32,532,917

Economic activity: Several projects have been undertaken since the creation of this TIF in 2005: the Church Street Townhomes, remodeling/revamping of IRMCO’s façade, expansion of Heartwood health and wellness facility, LSL Industries (since relocated from Evanston), Greenwood Lofts, North Shore General Contractors’ Cooperative, and Emerson Square.  With $2.5 million in reimbursement for project costs and costs for implementation of the West Evanston Master Plan, this TIF reported a negative income of $58,104 and a deficit of $2,117,737 in 2015.

Dempster-Dodge TIF

Location/description: This TIF encompasses only shopping plaza at Dempster Street and Dodge Avenue.

Created: June 25, 2012

Base EAV: $10,816,879

2015 EAV: $8,476,109

Economic activity: The City has given Azzuri of Evanston, doing business as Valli Produce, a $2 million loan, forgivable at the rate of $200,000 per year if certain requirements are met, and $1 million project costs. The TIF reported a $3 million deficit for 2015.

Chicago Main TIF

Location/description: Most parcels are located along the south side of Main Street between Chicago and Sherman avenues.

Created: Jan. 28, 2013

Base EAV: $11,489,119

2015 EAV: $9,507,667

Economic activity: The City has given developer Main & Chicago Evanston LLC a forgivable loan of $2.9 million for its now-completed $42 million project at the southeast corner of Main Street and Chicago Avenue. With total revenues of $900,000 and expenditures of $587,930, the TIF reported a fund balance of $312,070 and an overall deficit of $2,587,930 for 2015.

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...