Report issued on proposed TIF district
by MARIO LEKOVIC
The Lincolnwood Village Board of Trustees at its meeting March 4 continued a hearing on the proposed Devon-Lincoln Tax Increment Financing District and the designation of a redevelopment project area until its April 1 meeting, when the trustees plan to close the hearing.
Trustee Nicholas Leftakes moved to continue the hearing until the next meeting so the board can discuss it further but then start a 90-day period during which it must either approve or reject the TIF district.
The Urban Land Institute, which studied Devon Avenue between Lincoln Avenue and McCormick Boulevard, found that the TIF district would spark development interest in the corridor and that it can be a funding source for public improvements such as streetscaping, increased parking, pedestrian safety improvements and new gateway signs.
The consultant reported that the departure of Smart Jewelers and Avenue Fashions "has left a void and drained significant energy from the strip" and that more than 25 percent of the storefronts in the corridor are vacant. The agency recommended that the redevelopment effort focus on key sites, including the northwest corner of Devon and McCormick, the northwest corner of Lincoln and Devon, Whistler’s Restaurant, a vacant lot on Drake Avenue between Devon and Arthur Avenue, and the vacant movie theater site at the southeast corner of Devon and McCormick in Chicago.
The consultant recommended that the village focus its efforts on attracting service-based commercial outlets such as dentists, physical therapy, real estate and similar uses rather than traditional retail in this area is because the retail market along the six-block corridor on the Lincolnwood side of Devon is weak. The consultant said that the lots are shallow and that the narrow alley behind the properties offers little barrier between the Devon business corridor and the residential neighborhood.
In addition, most of the buildings are privately owned, some with long tenures, and the rents are low. Those conditions suggest that tearing down existing buildings and replacing with newer retail would be difficult and not an effective use of funds, according to the consultant.
The consultant also recommended that several parcels could be assembled at the west end of the corridor to create independent living senior housing to accommodate the aging population in the area.
A joint review board was formed consisting of the taxing bodies that overlap the district, including Lincolnwood School District 74, Niles Township High School District 219, Oakton Community College, Niles Township, Cook County, the Lincolnwood Library District and the village to review the TIF district.
District 74 Board president Scott Anderson urged the trustees to continue discussing the issue without the deadline of a required vote "lingering over our heads as we have those discussions." The review board along with Trustee Jesal Patel and Trustee Lawrence Elster held one meeting on the matter, on Feb. 12.
Patel said it’s important for the board to have a discussion about any of the items that were presented by the school district.
"It would be better to have those discussions not under a ticking clock," Patel said. "If we don’t have a discussion regarding the data and the negotiation points, were going to be sitting back here two weeks from now in the exact same place that we are asking the exact same question. We need to have some board discussion on these items prior to closing this hearing."
Other members of the board were reluctant to vote to end the hearing, but they said that there has been enough time and the review board has to make a determination. The district would be the fourth in the village, and it would encompass the commercial area bounded by Lincoln, Proesel and Devon avenues.
Also at the meeting, the board again approved the preliminary development plan for the Shoppes at Lincoln Pointe mixed-use development on the former Purple Hotel site at Lincoln and Touhy avenues but agreed to remove language that would require additional on- or off-site parking if the developer is not able to secure parking on the adjacent Commonwealth Edison right of way. The ComEd parking was always thought of as surplus parking, and the developer did want to be required to provide additional parking if it cannot secure a lease from ComEd, according to the village.
"It turns surplus parking into requirement parking, which we think is unfair," North Capital Group attorney Jerry Callahan said. "We ask that it be stricken from amendment."
The North Capital Group has agreed to build the required parking spaces the village recommended on the site, and it will build one parking structure that can be expanded if more parking is needed.
"I think it should be a non-issue," Leftakes said. "They’ve agreed to provide the required parking, and if there are more uses that come in and they obtain the ComEd right of way parking, that’s a bonus."
The board scheduled a public hearing for May 6 on an amendment to the Lincoln-Touhy TIF District that includes all of the 10.7-acre redevelopment area, which consists of adding two office properties north of the former hotel site as well as the ComEd property to the west.
The developer proposes demolishing an office building at 7358-60 N. Lincoln Ave. to make way for the Springhill Suites Hotel. The office building at 7366 N. Lincoln Ave. would be retained as an office building. The ComEd property also is included in the proposed TIF boundary amendment.
Kane McKenna and Associates, the consultant hired to investigate if the area would qualify for TIF district designation, found that the area proposed qualifies for the designation under state law as a "conservation area," defined as a condition prevents or threatens to prevent the healthy economic and physical development of properties in a manner that the community deems essential to its economic health.
Establishing the public hearing date triggers notice of the public hearing to property owners in the proposed area and within 750 feet of the proposed boundary, according to the village board.
Also at the meeting, the village board approved an intergovernmental agreement between the village and the Cook County Highway Department on the Crawford Avenue road reconstruction project. The county plans to reconstruct of the road between Devon Avenue and Jarvis Avenue, including installing a new storm-water sewer under Crawford.
At the village’s request, the project will include creating a northbound left-turn lane at Lincoln Avenue and a southbound left-turn lane at Greenleaf Avenue, closing the median opening north of Morse Avenue and reducing the median opening at Morse Avenue from 180 feet to 80 feet.
At the county’s suggestion, the 86-year-old water main that runs under Crawford will be replaced as part of the project, which also will include replacing streetlights and fire hydrants. The village’s share of the cost of the $4.99 million project is $2.51 million.
The trustees also board approved a $27,496 contract with Allen Visual Systems for the purchase and installation broadcast audio equipment for Village Hall to televise Committee of the Whole meetings.