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Elmhurst City Council expands TIF incentives for businesses

Alderman Michael Honquest, chairman of the Development, Planning and Zoning Committee, presents a report on a proposal for financial incentive programs for TIF 4, TIF 5 and the Downtown TIF at the Sept. 4 Elmhurst City Council meeting.
Alderman Michael Honquest, chairman of the Development, Planning and Zoning Committee, presents a report on a proposal for financial incentive programs for TIF 4, TIF 5 and the Downtown TIF at the Sept. 4 Elmhurst City Council meeting.

ELMHURST – Elmhurst businesses in three tax increment financing districts will now be able to apply for financial incentives from the city of Elmhurst under certain criteria the City Council established at its Sept. 4 meeting.

Aldermen unanimously passed a motion approving a Development, Planning and Zoning Committee report at the meeting.

Alderman Michael Honquest, chairman of the committee, said the committee had reviewed and expanded some TIF incentives in the three districts: North York TIF 4, Lake Street TIF 5 and the Downtown TIF. The changes increase parameters for the facade program because in some areas, those projects need more of an investment.

Business Development Coordinator Erin Jason said in a phone interview Sept. 6 that facade program grants previously maxed out at a certain amount for each prospective grant attainee per building and now they are based on the building's frontage. The amounts that could be given in grants also have been increased, she said.

However, tear-downs are no longer eligible for financial assistance through the facade program, and new construction also is not eligible, according to the report.

Alderwoman Noel Talluto, who also is on the committee, said the expansion of the program avoids "uncomfortable situations" in which the city would want to assist a business without having a program that would apply to that situation.

The funding levels are $150,000 for each TIF for the facade program and $20,000 for each TIF for the sign program, the report stated.

"These were the recommended levels for 2019 so that we can continue to obviously meet all of our obligations and anything additional that we might be able to do. These [funding levels] are within reason," Talluto said.

Through the sign program, new and existing business owners in the TIFs can apply for assistance, which would be 50 percent of the total cost, reimbursable up to $2,000, of adding new exterior signage or upgrading existing exterior signage to meet city code, according to the report. City staff would administer the program with final approval by the city manager.

Staff also would administer the facade program with final approval by the city manager for requests up to $60,000, while requests exceeding $60,000 would require City Council review and approval, the report stated. Applicants, who might include new and existing property owners and business owners, are eligible to receive reimbursement of up to 50 percent for qualified expenditures, including landscape design, signage and exterior lighting, with an award at a minimum of $20,000and a maximum of $240,000 based on $800 per linear foot of improved frontage.

Jason said the amounts the city could award grant recipients would be determined in each forthcoming year's budget as more and more funds become available through the accrument of money through the TIFs.

In TIF 4 and the Downtown TIF, the retail grant program would have $100,000 for funding while the program would have $50,000 for funding in TIF 5, according to the report.

Staff would administer the program with the retail grant committee completing vetting and the city manager having final approval. Applicants, who would need to be new retail sales tax- or food and beverage-producing businesses or existing businesses that are expanding their footprint, would be eligible to receive as much as 50-percent reimbursement for certain expenditures for marketing efforts and construction, up to $10,000. No more than 50 percent of the reimbursement can go toward construction.

Businesses qualified for the retail grant program can begin submitting applications in 2018, and review and approval would take place in 2019, following budget-funding approval.

Talluto said larger TIF requests and new construction projects would be addressed separately through negotiated agreements that would come through the City Council for approval.

Alderman Michael Bram said he wanted to know why the TIF incentive programs did not apply to all present TIFs and any future TIFs. TIF 3, which includes an area along Route 83 and St. Charles Road, was not included in the program. Mayor Steve Morley said there are only two years left in TIF 3. Honquest said the program could be expanded to any future TIFs.

Honquest said the purpose of updating the policy was to give city staff the leeway to give developers and businesses more incentives to come to Elmhurst in order to make Elmhurst "more business friendly."

Alderman Kevin York was absent from the meeting.

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