Proposal by Ald. Napolitano would pressure landlords to lease vacant storefronts
by BRIAN NADIG
A proposal being introduced by Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st) is designed to put pressure on the owners of longtime vacant storefronts to find a tenant.
Napolitano said that some of commercial landlords in his ward are keeping their storefronts vacant in order to obtain a reduction in the assessed valuation of their property, to hold out for a ridiculously high rent or to avoid important repairs.
“I feel it’s hurting my business districts,” Napolitano said, adding that more than two dozen alderpersons have signed on to the proposal. “A lot of them in their wards have seen this.”
Reducing a property valuation can significantly lower taxes, although a new policy implemented by Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi limits vacancy reductions in most cases to two years.
The proposal would send a message to bad landlords that the city will “hold your feet to the fire” and will inspect their property on an annual basis, Napolitano said.
The proposal, which would add “vacant or commercial storefronts” to an existing ordinance regulating vacant buildings, would require working burglar alarms for storefronts which are vacant for six months or longer.
In addition, vacant storefronts also would have to be registered with the city for a fee of $100.
However, the registration can be delayed for 12 months as long as efforts are actively being made to lease or sell the property and the property does not have serious building code violations.
Registration also would not be needed if a permit has been issued for repairs to the building and those improvements are being made or if an occupancy permit or license is pending for a new tenant.
“Our goal is not to hurt landlords, the legitimate ones,” but to encourage the leasing of storefronts and proper upkeep, Napolitano said.
Vacant storefronts are not good for the overall vitality of a business district, reducing foot traffic and causing other problems, Napolitano said. “There’s a trickle down effect with these things,” he said.
In recent years many restaurants have closed in Edison Park, and in two of those instances the businesses relocated elsewhere and their previous locations have been vacant for around two years, Napolitano said. Some of the other eateries closed due to the owner’s retirement or are being replaced by a non-restaurant tenant, he said.
Other alderpersons who have signed off on the proposal include James Gardiner (45th), Samantha Nugent (39th), Nicholas Sposato (38th) and Gilbert Villegas (36th).
A public hearing on the proposal could happen in early 2024.