Evanston aldermen Monday will be asked to approve spending up to $61,000 to complete an eligibility study and redevelopment plan for a potential 5th Ward tax increment financing district.

A preliminary report from Bob Rychlicki of Kane, McKenna and Associates, Inc., the city’s long-time TIF consulting firm, says the area — generally north of Emerson Street, south of the North Shore Channel and west of Ridge Avenue — appears to meet six of 13 standards permitted under state law for designation as a conservation area under the TIF statute.

Meeting just three of the standards is sufficient to justify a TIF designation, the report says.

A Google Maps view, with the proposed TIF district highlighted.

The report says that with more than half of the 226 structures in the the area over 100 years old, it appears the area easily meets the statutory standard of obsolescence, and field observations of the buildings indicate they meet the standard for deterioration of buildings and site improvements.

It says the area also has excessive land coverage and overcrowding of structures, and that since the area was developed long before the city adopted its first comprehensive plan in 1972 it shows a lack of community planning.

It also says that the area meets the standard for having a stagnant equalized assessed valuation, given that the neighborhood’s valuation has lagged behind that of the city overall in four of the past five years. And it suggests that the age of water mains in the area suggests that it meets the standard for having inadequate utilities.

Some of the property value stagnation may have been self-inflicted by the city. The neighborhood has seen at least two proposals for substantial new development in the past few years — at Emerson and Jackson and at 2044 Wesley — but those have stalled out in the face of objections from neighbors.

The proposed TIF district includes the Civic Center at 2100 Ridge Ave. Aldermen have recently, after a gap of a decade or more, renewed exploration of a possible sale of the Civic Center, potentially for reuse as affordable housing, with city offices moving to a more compact site downtown. Creation of the TIF district could provide a mechanism to generate funds to help realize that project.

Creation of a tax increment financing district allows a municipality to capture the entirety of any increase in the property taxes generated by rising property values in the district for a period of 23 years, rather than having to share those increases with other taxing bodies, like local public schools.

In turn the municipality is expected to use the increased revenue to help spur development in the area that will help further increase those property values, so that the other taxing bodies will benefit in the long run, after the TIF district has expired.

Update 2/9/21: Aldermen voted 9-0 at Monday night’s City Council meeting to approve the TIF study contract.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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