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SE Side wants to benefit from USX development

With nearly $100 million in TIF funds being spent on the first phase of a massive development on the south lakefront, a community summit on Saturday will discuss strategies to win a community benefits agreement for the project.

The Coalition for a Lakeside CBA meets Saturday, September 7, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 3200 E. 91st.

Jennifer Epps-Addison of the Partnership for Working Families will discuss how community benefits agreements (CBAs) across the country have won opportunities for local workers and communities, and Tom Tresser of CivicLab will present an analysis of all TIFs in three local wards.

The Coalition will also release results of a new survey of Southeast Side residents.

Site developer McCaffrey Interests has been granted $96 million in TIF support from the city for the first phase of a vast new redevelopment of the former site of US Steel’s South Works (USX) plant, dubbed Chicago Lakeside.  Ultimately McCaffrey plans over 13,000 units of housing, 17.5 million square feet of retail, 125 acres of parks and a 1,500-slip marina.

The TIF subsidy will cover one-fourth of development costs for the first phase of the project, which will include 1 million square feet of retail and restaurants and 848 units of housing.  The first phase is planned for the northwest corner of the 530-acre site, which runs south from 79th Street along the lakefront to the Calumet River.

Concerns about displacement

A major concern is that development could cause displacement in the adjoining area, as it has in other communities, with property tax increases as home values rise forcing longtime residents to leave, said Amelia NietoGomez of the Alliance of the South East, an organizer of the coalition.

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‘Invest in Englewood’ campaign launching

Beautification of a gateway lot and a walking tour of historic and architecturally significant sites on Saturday will launch the Invest in Englewood campaign of the new Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation.

From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, June 1, Englewood residents will install landscaping at the northwest corner of 63rd and Yale, an entryway to the community from the Dan Ryan Expressway.  Neighborhood Housing Services is partnering with GECDC on the project.

At 10 a.m. a guided tour will take off from 63rd and Yale — including a section of old mansions — to “show another dimension of what Greater Engelwood has to offer the city,” said Eric McLoyd, executive director of the group.

Invest in Englewood aims at marshalling community resources — including the efforts of scores of community organizations — to “rebrand, rebuild, and revitalize the community” in a resident-led project, said Sonya Marie Harper, an organizer with Residents Association of Greater Englewood.

GECDC was founded in 2011 after the economic development work group of RAGE realized a community development corporation was needed to addess the “stalled economic development” in Englewood and West Englewood, she said.

The first step is to broaden the perception of the community on the part of residents as well as outsiders, she said.  While most press coverage focuses on violence — and the community has among the highest rates of unemployment, vacant properties, and population loss in the city — there is also a wide range of positive efforts by community residents, including 500 local businesses.

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In Benton Harbor, ‘Occupy the PGA’

Hundreds of Benton Harbor residents are expected Saturday for a march on the Senior PGA Championship tournament at the controversial Harbor Shores golf course, demanding the PGA donate 25 percent of tournament profits to the city and publicly acknowledge the new golf course’s “theft of public parkland for private profit.”

They’ll dress in black for a “death march” – symbolizing “the death of democracy in Benton Harbor,” according to local civil rights leader Rev. Edward Pinkney – and fly hundreds of kites bearing the words, “Occupy the PGA.”

The march from City Hall, 200 Wall Street, to Jean Klock Park Beach starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 26. Benton Harbor is about 100 miles from Chicago on Lake Michigan.

Three holes of the golf course were built on 23 acres of the city’s lakefront park by a nonprofit development company backed by Whirlpool, which has its corporate headquarters in Benton Harbor.  Dunes were excavated and hundreds of trees were removed to assure golfers a view of the lake.

Ultimately it’s supposed to be the centerpiece of a $500 million development with condos and high-end retail.

Major manufacturing operations by Whirlpool – and thousands of jobs — were moved overseas starting in the 1980s. Today Benton Harbor, which is 92 percent African American, is one of Michigan’s poorest cities.

Critics say Whirlpool wants to drive out blacks and convert Benton Harber to a resort town for wealthy weekenders.

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Affordable housing for Lincoln Park

Lakeview Action Coalition will unveil plans for Lincoln Park’s first affordable housing initiative in decades at its annual assembly Sunday.

More than 700 members of churches and other LAC affiliates are expected to meet with elected officials — including Congressman Danny Davis, State Senate President John Cullerton, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and several aldermen — on Sunday, May 6 at 2 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Church, 2335 N. Orchard.

Ald. Michele Smith and McCafferey Interests, developers of the Children’s Memorial Hospital site at Fullerton and Halsted, have agreed to include affordable housing requirements beyond the legal minimum in a planned development agreement for the property, LAC organizers said.

How far beyond remains under discussion.  LAC is pushing for 200 units with rents ranging below 40 percent and up to 120 percent of the metropolitan median, in order to house seniors as well as  neighborhood teachers and retail workers.

The best way to maximize affordable housing is to use the Nellie Black building at Orchard and Fullerton, an organizer said.  The 1931 red brick and masonry structure, built in 1931 to house nurses and interns, is one of six historic buildings on the site that Preservation Chicago has called for preserving.

In addition to affordable housing, LAC and the Children’s Memorial Redevelopment Coalition have called for an open planning process, adaptive reuse of historic structures, and sustainable design.

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Wicker Park pushes for transit-oriented development

UPDATED – A four-year effort by community and business groups around Wicker Park in favor of mixed-use, transit-oriented development at a major intersection seems to be paying off.

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On TIF reform, Bronzeville has ideas

Bronzeville residents turned out in impressive numbers for last Thursday’s public forum of the Mayor’s Task Force on TIF Reform, which was held at the Bronzeville Chicago Military Academy.

Other communities were represented, but more forums in additional communities would certainly offer the task force greater breadth of public input.  But last week’s was the only hearing that is planned.

Bronzeville is one of the city’s most heavily TIFed communities, with thirteen TIF districts covering 80 percent of the area, many created to finance CHA redevelopments – with more in the works had Mayor Daley won the 2016 Olympic games, according to Housing Bronzeville.

Sheila Carter testified on behalf of the group that TIFs have “failed local taxpayers” in their lack of transparency and accountability.  It’s been “virtuallly impossible for local residents to understand how TIF monies were being raised and spent in our area,” she said, suggesting “this confusion and lack of documentation was intentional.”

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Development 101: Giordanos, Oreos — and Wal-Mart

People used to get confused when Jim Capraro would deny that a new supermarket in a blighted community — which he’d worked years to open — was a win for economic development. Read the rest of this entry »

Time for TIF reform?

Chicago teachers and community groups will call for an end to big business TIF giveaways which are draining the CPS budget at a rally tomorrow (Saturday, March 19, noon) at Jenner Elementary, 1119 N. Cleveland.

After the rally they’ll march to a number of businesses around the Gold Coast that have received TIF funding, said Jackson Potter of the Chicago Teachers Union.  TIF funds (including subsidies to developers) have benefited such corporations as Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, he said.

The TIF program diverts about $250 million a year from the CPS budget to “wealthy developers, well-connected businesses, and Wall Street bankers,” while 160 CPS schools have no library, teachers are being laid off, education programs are cut and class sizes are growing, he said. CPS is projecting a $700 million deficit for the coming year.

The protest’s slogan is “TIFs Are For Kids.”  It comes at a time when TIF reform seems to be under serious consideration in Springfield, and a new mayor-elect is saying he wants reform too.

It’s not yet clear what Rahm Emanuel means by “reform.”  He began his campaign calling for greater transparency on TIFs – for one thing, including them in the city budget – and also for skimming TIF funds to hire more police, a move many think is probably not legally feasible.

Since winning election Emanuel has said “we need to return [the TIF program] to its original purpose,” as “a tool for blighted communities” rather than “for high-rent areas.”

Corporate welfare

That echoes the long-standing criticism of community groups, who say TIF has diverted property tax revenues to politically-favored areas and businesses that don’t need it, and that open-ended rather than project-specific TIF plans have accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars for Mayor Daley to use for his friends, at his whim.

Building on years of coverage at the Chicago Reader, recent reports have confirmed this view.  According to reporters from Chicago Talks, nearly half of the $1.2 billion in TIF money designated for private sector projects since 2000 went to some of the area’s most profitable corporations.

According to the Chicago Reporter, $1.2 billion in property tax dollars were siphoned from the city, county, schools, and parks to the development projects in the Loop and Near South Side – just two of Chicago’s 77 community areas getting 55 percent of all TIF money spent between 2004 and 2008.

“We’ve been saying for a long time that they have been abusing it,” said Carolina Gaete of Blocks Together.  “They’re starving the taxing bodies.  TIF has really been used as corporate welfare — and a tool for gentrification.”

If Emanuel is serious about returning TIF to its original purpose, the first thing he should do is sunset the LaSalle Central TIF, said one long-time observer.

Created in 2006, the LaSalle Central TIF has funneled millions of dollars to major corporations – United Airlines, Miller Coors, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group among others – in many cases to renovate corporate offices.

The LaSalle Central TIF has over $36 million in available funds this year.  It’s expected to collect $1.5 billion over its 23-year life – about half of which will come from property tax that would otherwise go to CPS – for use in an area that comprises some of the city’s most prime real estate.

“There should never have been a TIF in that area,” said David Merriman of UIC.

Movement in Springfield

Meanwhile, a number of measures reforming TIF have been introduced in Springfield, including proposals to return uncommitted TIF funds to taxing bodies annually, exempt CPS revenues from TIF diversions, and require audits of Chicago TIFs and stepped-up disclosure (Progress Illinois has a list).

These are likely to be combined with other proposals into a single consensus bill by a group of legislators and advocates convened by Rep. John Taylor (D – Marion).  And prospects for passage this session look good, said Jonathan Goldman of Parent PAC, a new group that advocates for public school parents, which includes veterans of campaigns against the diversion of school funds to TIFs.

Growing momentum for reform reflects growing popular awareness about TIFs — as well as the mounting financial challenges faced by CPS and Chicago, Goldman said.  “And part of it is that Daley is leaving; he won’t be there to defend it,” he said.  Previously “people were afraid to go there.”

Housing Action Illinois, which helped push through earlier TIF reforms a decade ago, has compiled a list of TIF reform principles and submitted it to Bradley’s working group, Bob Palmer said.

These include: tightening up the definition of “blight” used to qualify TIF plans; limiting the land area in a municipality that can be TIFed; requiring explicit goals and purposes, with a process for returning revenues to taxing bodies when goals are met; requiring governing boards of taxing bodies to approve participation in a TIF, allowing them to limit their participation, and limiting TIF diversions to property value increases above the rate of inflation; and setting a process for declaring a surplus and returning unused revenues to schools districts and other taxing bodies.

Similar points are made in a memo to the working group from the Better Government Association.

Another proposal backed by Housing Action, designed to facilitate the Sweet Home Chicago ordinance, would allow TIF funding to cover 100 percent of the cost of construction of low-income housing.

More sunshine

In Chicago, reform could mean fuller implementation of the TIF Sunshine Ordinance approved in 2009.  Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward), coauthor of the measure, described his disappointment with its implementation to Chicago Talks – including the city’s claim that documents that should have been posted couldn’t be located.

Community activists monitoring neighborhood TIFs say it’s still hard to get information.  Gaete, who works with the Chicago Central Park TIF advisory council, says it’s not clear how officials come up with financial projections and other numbers.

Valerie Leonard of the Lawndale Alliance, who holds an annual town hall meeting reporting on seven TIFs around North Lawndale, said its impossible to learn how many community residents have gotten jobs or what minority contracts have been awarded.

Special programs which are supposed to provide TIF support for residents – including home improvements, small business support and job training – use TIF money but aren’t listed in TIF budgets, making them impossible to track, she said.



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