Evanston’s Economic Development Committee Wednesday evening voted in favor of conducting study of the feasibility of creating a new tax increment financing district in part of the city’s 5th Ward.

Several city-owned properties — including the Civic Center at 2100 Ridge Ave., the Municipal Service Center at 2020 Asbury Ave. and the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center at 1655 Foster St. — would be included in the district as proposed.

City officials have had preliminary discussions about selling some city assets — notably the Civic Center — as a means of improving its long-term finances, and a TIF district could potentially create funds to assist in the redevelopment of such properties for tax-generating uses.

The proposed TIF district also includes the former Foster School at 2100 Dewey Ave., which the non-profit Family Focus organization has been seeking to sell for some time.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, said the new district could benefit businesses located on Simpson and Emerson streets and in the Hill Arts District.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said the city should directly hire its long-time TIF consultant, Bob Rychlicki of Kane McKenna, to do the study, rather than going through a request for proposals process. The budget account proposed to fund the study has a remaining balance of $4,900.

In a memo to the committee, Paul Zalmezak, the city’s economic development manager, said a TIF district could also support the development of mixed-income housing throughout the study area, but Paulina Martinez, acting deputy city manager, said there was no plan for the city to acquire existing residential properties in the area for redevelopment.

The hole in the middle of the proposed district, running southwest from the intersection of Green Bay Road and Simpson Street along the former Mayfair railroad right of way is part of the city’s existing West Evanston TIF District #6.

Update 8:44 p.m.: At a ward meeting this evening City Manager Erika Storlie said that because of the low cost of the study, staff would move ahead with conducting it based on the Economic Development Committee’s approval. Once it’s completed, she said, the study results will be presented to City Council for a decision on whether to move forward with establishing the TIF.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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