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Elmhurst City Council advances plans for new downtown TIF

Robert Rychlicki, executive vice president at financial services firm Kane, McKenna and Associates, presents on a proposed tax increment financing redevelopment project at the Dec. 18 Elmhurst City Council meeting.
Robert Rychlicki, executive vice president at financial services firm Kane, McKenna and Associates, presents on a proposed tax increment financing redevelopment project at the Dec. 18 Elmhurst City Council meeting.

ELMHURST – Plans are in the works to establish a new tax increment financing district for downtown Elmhurst, as the current downtown TIF, which was created in 1986, is set to expire in 2021.

City Manager Jim Grabowski said at the Dec. 18 City Council meeting that as city staff have talked with business developers about opportunities in downtown Elmhurst, there's only about a year left in the TIF following the process developers need to go through before they're able to develop properties and benefit from the city's increment incentive.

"The math doesn't add up for the investment," Grabowski said.

The plan is to end the current downtown TIF early and put in a TIF with fewer properties but including some publicly owned properties, such as the Elmhurst Public Library and Wilder Park, so they can partner on redevelopment and improvements to their properties, he said.

Upon completion of the private development of the proposed new TIF area over a 23-year period, the city estimates the equalized assessed value of the property within the area will be within a range of $75 million to $95 million, according to the draft report prepared by financial services firm Kane, McKenna and Associates, which specializes in municipal economic development.

Currently, the equalized assessed value for the area, assuming the 2016 value, is $25.9 million, said Robert Rychlicki, executive vice president at the firm, who made a presentation at the meeting on the proposed redevelopment.

"This [project] is a part of a proactive approach as it relates to the redevelopment and the continued vibrancy of the downtown," Rychlicki said.

He said about 85 percent of the downtown buildings are at least 35 years old and 40 percent are between 85 and 100 years old, and that presents challenges for retrofitting and being competitive for rentals.

The City Council moved the plans ahead with a 13-1 vote. Alderman Michael Bram voted against it after bringing up how the vacancy rate in downtown Elmhurst is very low.

Rychlicki countered that the many older downtown buildings present sustainabilty issues because of the expenses of keeping up with improvements like uneven floors and modernization with sprinklers.

Bram said he's not against moving foward with the new TIF, but there are about three years before the TIF expires.

"I'm not saying wait until the 11th hour. This is the holiday season. I would love to give the opportunity for this presentation, what the committee has discussed and the presentation on BoardDocs for others in the community to take a look at," Bram said.

He also said some of this should be left up to the free market.

"Is 36 years enough to let the free market take its place?" he asked.

Bram added in a phone interview Dec. 19 that he thinks the city should "get ahead of the curve" and create a draft intergovernmental agreement for discussion with the other taxing bodies before moving ahead with the TIF.

"I think we should always work with the other governing bodies as much as possible," he said.

Citizen Advocacy Center community lawyer Ben Silver asked during public comment that the City Council slow the process for the proposed TIF redevelopment project.

"My concern is that this has not been fully evaluated," Silver said. "I understand that there are opportunities down the line for people to comment on this, for the council to either go forward with it or not, to make changes with it. But it really does become more and more difficult as this goes on."

The committee report recommended holding the TIF Joint Review Board meeting Jan. 24 and a public hearing March 5 during the regularly scheduled City Council meeting.

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