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EvMark: Expand downtown tax district

The board of EvMark, Evanston’s downtown marketing group, has voted to seek City Council approval to expand the boundaries of a special tax district that funds its programs by 70 percent.

Under the plan, residents of several downtown condo and townhouse developments would be subject to the special tax for the first time. It would add the Research Park area and several smaller tracts to the tax district.

The newly-taxed developments would include Ivy Court at 1889 Maple Ave., Optima Views at 1720 Maple Ave., and buildings at 1738 Chicago Ave., 522 Church St. and 1572 Maple Ave.

The tax district, called Special Service Area No. 4, is scheduled to expire next year. First created in 1987, it has been renewed twice before.

EvMark’s proposal would nearly double the group’s budget, from the $250,000 that it’s been fixed at for the past 10 years, to $475,000. It would also provide for annual budget increases, subject to City Council approval each year.

Because the size of the area paying into the special fund would increase, EvMark Executive Director Diane Williams says the tax rate would decline slightly for those who already pay it, from $1.48 per $1,000 of Equalized Assessed Valuation in 2005 to $1.464.

Under the plan, the tax rate would be capped at that new level for the area’s proposed 12-year renewal period.

EvMark is a private non-profit corporation. Its board adopted the new budget plan at a meeting Oct. 11 that was not open to the public. Fourteen of the board’s 24 members reportedly attended the meeting with 13 voting for it and one abstaining.

EvMark Board Chairman Jim Nash said the economic impact of the tax would be modest. “The maximum the typical condo owner would pay would be $120 to $130 per year,” he said.

Mr. Nash, who heads Farnsworth-Hill, Inc., which manages the 708 Church St. building and other downtown properties, said the EvMark board has been working for two years to develop a better strategy for promoting Evanston’s downtown business district and figure out an appropriate way to fund that strategy.

The EvMark board is composed business owners, property managers and commercial property owners as well as some city officials and a representative from the Chamber of Commerce.

Currently it has no representatives of condo owners, but Ms. Williams said that two or three condo owners would be added to the board under the renewal plan.

James Corirossi, the president of the condo association at Church Street Station, one of the buildings already in the tax district, said, “I certainly support EvMark. They’ve done a lot of good work, and I want them to continue to be funded.”

“EvMark helps bring business into the downtown area, so we get some quality stores — retailers and restaurants,” he said.

Mr. Colirossi, who also owns a real estate firm, JPC Equities, downtown, said EvMark’s marketing efforts save retailers expenses they’d otherwise have to put into their own marketing programs.

EvMark also manages a downtown maintenance contract with The Brickman Group, which provides for enhanced plantings and more frequent cleanup of downtown sidewalks.

EvMark currently has three part-time staff members, the executive director, a marketing director and an account manager. Under the proposed budget it would have two full-time staff people plus a part-time administrative position, Ms. Williams said.

The City Council is expected to have the EvMark proposal on its agenda for either its Nov. 13 or Nov. 27 meeting. State law requires the council to hold a public hearing on the proposal.

The state statute also contains a petition provision under which a City Council approval of the special tax district could be overturned, but only if petitions signatures from 51 percent of the land owners and 51 percent of the property owners in the special service area were submitted within 60 days after the end of the council’s public hearing.

A map showing the current and proposed new boundaries of Special Service Area No. 4 is available as an attachment below.

Related story

Downtown tax district up for renewal – 10/3/2006

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