Homewood presents new TIF district plan at public hearing

Homewood officials and a financial consultant introduced the plan for a proposed tax increment financing (TIF) district in the downtown area during a public hearing at village hall on Tuesday, April 11.

Several residents asked questions about the TIF plan and about one of the first projects expected to benefit from the district. Their concerns included boundary decisions, parking capacity, relocation assistance and infrastructure problems.

The board of trustees will consider ordinances at its April 25 meeting to establish the TIF district.
 
  A map of the proposed 
  downtown TIF district 
  that will be considered 
  at the Homewood Board of 
  Trustees meeting April 25.

  (Provided image)
 
TIF districts marshal resources for economic development projects by freezing the equalized assessed value (EAV) of properties in the district, usually for 23 years. Taxing agencies within the boundaries continue to receive property tax revenue based on the EAV at the time the TIF was established. 

If EAV rises during the TIF district's life, tax revenue generated by the increase is directed to a special fund that can be used for qualified projects.

The taxing agencies affected by the district convened as a joint review board on March 8 and voted to recommend the village form the TIF district, according to Village Manager Jim Marino. Prairie State College, Homewood School District 153, Homewood Public Library, Thornton Township and the village were represented on the review board. 

The purpose of the new district is to help the village finance a number of major projects in the downtown area that would not be feasible without the TIF, according to Fran Lefor Rood, senior vice president for SB Friedman Development Advisors.

"TIF funds can support private investment that would not otherwise occur and also help support public improvements throughout the district," she said. 

SB Friedman was hired by the village last year to help with redevelopment financing and to study the feasibility of establishing a new TIF district. Rood presented the company's findings at the hearing.

The district would include most of the downtown area east of Park Avenue, west of Dixie Highway, south of the Homewood Public Library and north of St. Paul Community Church. 

The property on which La Banque Hotel sits was not included. The redevelopment of that property, finished in 2015, received $900,000 in funding from a previous downtown TIF district.

She said the area qualifies under the state's TIF law in part because of the age of buildings. Of the 44 buildings in the district, 39 are 35 years old or older. She also cited four main characteristics that help the area qualify: 
 
  • Lack of growth in EAV. EAV declined in each of five years studied, from 2010 to 2015, and from 2012 to 2015 the decline was greater than the decline experienced by the village as a whole.
  • Deterioration. Some deterioration was found at 81 of the 85 improved parcels in the district.
  • Inadequate utilities. Water mains and storm and sanitary sewers have capacity but are antiquated.
  • Presence of structures below minimum code. All the structures were built prior to the adoption of the 2012 building codes, and 70 percent are not in compliance.
     
The plan calls for addressing those characteristics by pursuing a number of transit-oriented development projects that will provide new construction and major rehabilitation in the district.

The proposed budget for the district would be $30 million over its 23-year life. Rood noted that the budget is a framework for using TIF-generated funds, but whether the district generates that much money depends on EAV increases during the period. 

One project Rood mentioned several times as a likely use for TIF funding is the renovation of the Homewood rail station. Metra Rail and Homewood collaborated last year on a feasibility study for that project and officials are currently discussing the various options outlined in the study.

The first project in line to benefit from the TIF district would be a plan to build a new mixed-use building that would extend from 2033 to 2051 Ridge Road. Currently, two buildings occupy the site, the Triumph Building and a building once known as Funk's Hall, now the home of Loulou Belle and Artistix Salon. 

Third Coast Redevelopment of Grand Rapids, Mich., purchased Funk's Hall at 2049-2051 Ridge Road last year and has contract a to purchase the Triumph Building at 2033 Ridge Road.

The $10.7 million project would add 36 residential units plus 12,500 square feet of commercial space to the downtown area. But it is a relatively small project, Rood said, and faces a number of financing challenges common to projects in fully developed areas.

"Based on our analysis to date we know there's a financing gap," she said. "We're working with the village and working with the developer to explore several different sources of financing to fill that gap."

Two downtown business owners who would be displaced by the project had questions during the hearing. 

Dodi Wians, co-owner of Loulou Belle boutique, and Christine Roney, owner of Artistix Salon, asked whether relocation costs listed in the budget would apply to their situation. Third Coast purchased the building their businesses are in and plans to demolish it to make way for new construction.

Homewood Village Manager Jim Marino indicated the budget is very broad at this point, but the village would seek to help businesses in some fashion to help them stay in the downtown area.

Marty Arivo, owner of Homewood Florist, wondered how the TIF boundary was established, noting that his business is adjacent to but not included in the district.

Marino said because the district's purpose is to encourage larger transit-oriented development, the sites that are most likely to be redeveloped were the starting points for the district and the boundaries were drawn to make sure the area was contiguous.

In addition to the Triumph Building at Martin Avenue and Ridge Road, two other potential redevelopment sites include the Matrix Building at Ridge Road and Harwood Avenue and the Village Hall parking lot at Chestnut Road and Harwood Avenue.

Two residents also asked whether improvements to drainage at the Dixie Highway viaduct could be included in the TIF's projects. The viaduct is prone to flooding.

Mayor Richard Hofeld said the village has had discussions recently with the Illinois Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the roadway and drainage system. IDOT officials said they would study the problem but currently do not have funds available to start a project, Hofeld said. 

The viaduct itself is within the proposed TIF district, according to maps provided by SB Friedman, but the drainage system extends outside the boundaries. 

Village officials have other projects in mind as potential beneficiaries of TIF funds, including further development of the Homewood Science Center and the redevelopment of the vacant lot formerly occupied by Savoia T'Go on Dixie Highway.

Homewood currently has four TIF districts, including one in the Southgate area, one on the east side of the downtown business district along Ridge Road, one in the southwest section of the downtown area along 183rd Street and Harwood Avenue and one along 175th Street west of Halsted Street. 

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