TIF-ed Off?

Just north of Wrigleyville is an exciting urban neighborhood called Buena Park. Squashed between Wrigleyville, Uptown and the lake, it is something of a secret that has terrific potential. Unfortunately, alderman Helen Shiller, for years has ignored cries of neighborhood residents to provide an atmosphere for more retail businesses, that is, until recently.

A few months ago, Peter Holsten began development on a deserted parcel of land, Wilson Yard, which was formerly a CTA bus barn. The development is controversial because it is using Tax Increment Financing (TIF) money from the city for the project. The original proposal called for a 12-screen movie theater, an Aldi supermarket, a Target, residential housing and street-level retail space.

According to the Fix Wilson Yard web site, the plan now calls for “178 units of 100% low-income housing (with family housing income ceilings of 21% low income, 56% very low income and 23% extremely low income), no movie theater, and no confirmation that Target is coming. Holsten Real Estate is now the lone developer and owner of all the low-income housing. The TIF commitment has soared to $52 million, 34% of the cost of the entire project.”

Although the Aldi was built and opened at the beginning of the year, the bustling street traffic that was originally predicted based on an entrance facing Broadway was scuttled in the actual design, so all foot traffic must follow the sidewalk around to the rear entrance by the parking lot. Plans also called for a multi-level parking garage for 382 cars and an additional 173-car surface parking lot. Currently the plans for additional parking are murky at best.

Neighborhood residents are so concerned that they have put together a legal team comprising two different law firms with specialties in fighting municipalities on Land Use and TIF issues. Both firms have leading attorneys in their respective fields.  Fighting TIFs has long been an uphill battle, but recent Illinois Appellate Court action may provide a new hope for those wishing to fight city hall. Attorney John Meyers has won taxpayers the right to sue developers who may be getting too sweet a deal off TIF-designated land.

Windy Citizen has put together this convenient Google Map of TIF districts in Chicago. See if your neighborhood is getting TIF-ed.

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    Buena Park is part of Uptown