Update: TIF improvements at Jefferson Park, Wilson Park total $1 million, not $5.3 million announced by mayor’s press office
by BRIAN NADIG
Update: About $5.3 million in tax increment financing subsidies was going to be allocated for improvements to Jefferson Park, 4822 N. Long Ave., and Wilson Park, 4630 N. Milwaukee Ave., but the total is now expected to be $1 million.
Mayor Lightfoot’s Press Office had issued a news release last week stating that under an ordinance introduced at the City Council’s Jan. 26 meeting, Jefferson Park would receive $2.275 million in infrastructure enhancements, including fieldhouse and pool house renovations, ball field drainage improvements and rehabilitation of the park’s lighting and playground.
Wilson would receive $3.05 million for similar improvements to its fieldhouse, sports field, lighting and playground, the news release said.
However, Chicago Park District director of communications Michele Lemons said that each park is receiving $500,000.
The park district has indicated that not all of the suggested improvements could be completed by the end of this year when the Jefferson Park Tax Increment Financing District is set to expire, Alderman James Gardiner (45th) said.
“In collaboration with community stakeholders, my office has chosen some of the improvements that the community wanted,” Gardiner said. “Unfortunately we weren’t able to get a lot of things … like new air conditioning, windows and gutters due to the timeline.”
The planned improvements at Wilson and Jefferson would include additional park lighting, playground renovation, walking path paving and improvements to the ball field, according to the ordinance.
Gardiner said that he will be reviewing the TIF district’s finances to make sure any remaining dollars are spent on other projects in the community prior to the deadline.
“My goal is to spend every penny in our community,” Gardiner said.
Last year Gardiner held community meetings on separate proposals to use TIF dollars for the installation of turf fields at Wilson and Jefferson parks, but many residents suggested instead that drainage be improved for the existing grass fields and that any leftover funds be allocated for building upgrades.
The TIF district has been in place since 1998, and at the time city officials said that the funds would be used to encourage private investment in the struggling business district, including TIF subsidies to private developers. However, most of the funds have gone toward public infrastructure, such as streets.
TIF districts are an economic development tool that allows municipalities to spend newly generated property tax dollars within a designated area over 23 years. Other taxing bodies may not get the tax dollars generated from any increment in area’s tax base value, as those funds go to the municipality.