The makeup of downtown Joliet could soon see new developments, after the City Council unanimously approved a measure to implement a proposed tax increment financing district.
The vote, which came during the Feb. 16 council meeting, allows city officials to address concerns regarding the deterioration of properties bound north of Jefferson Street and south of Glenwood Avenue, between Hammes and Republican Avenues.
Councilmen Larry Hug said it makes sense for the city to implement the TIF.
“It is a wise decision that we do need to encourage the development in and around St. Joe’s – who I know a very large employer, a very, very loyal partner to that neighborhood and to the city,” he said. “We do need to help them. The TIF District is perfect.”
In 2014, the city partnered with SB Friedman, a real estate and development advisory firm, to conduct a TIF feasibility study on properties near Presence-St. Joseph Medical Center. After a review of eligible areas qualifying for inclusion in the program, officials noted how it may be beneficial to include additional properties between Republican Avenue and the Joliet Junction Bike Trail.
“There’s specific criteria for eligibility to be included,” City Manager Jim Hock said. “And, we certainly can reach out to SB Friedman regarding… the other side of the hospital and whether or not it’s feasible to include that area.”
Hock said the city approached the feasibility study as they did, limiting the examination’s scope and were successful. But, he added that the city hopes to expand the reach of the TIF District.
“That was the initial area that we looked that we thought it would kind of a no-brainer in terms of eligibility, because most of those buildings you’re going to have to tear down and rebuild if you’re going to make it into physicians offices,” he said.
Hock said some of the property, where there are already doctor facilities, city officials didn’t include as part of the initial examination, adding that they’ll now look to include this portion of the city. If the boundaries of TIF District are expanded, the matter would return to the City Council as a change order.
Deputy City Manager Steve Jones said once implemented, the TIF District gives city officials an economic tool to encourage redevelopment.
“With there being a major medical facility, there’s opportunity for spinoffs,” he said. “The possibility exists for redevelopment. It’s important to note that it doesn’t guarantee redevelopment, but sometimes having that tool can spur people to action.”
The TIF District creates a 50/50 partnership between the city and developers, which Jones said is worthwhile. He added that eligible businesses seeking to make improvements can only benefit as much as they contribute.
“The [freeze on the property tax rate] that’s added to the new value [obtained through redevelopment] allows us to use that as an economic tool,” he said. “It allows the city to rebate that amount back to you.”
City officials are allotting monies, valued at $29,720, from the 2016 budget for the cost of the TIF District proposal, as well as the consulting assistance needed for analysis of the expanded area and the preparation of the project redevelopment plan.
Jones told the Bugle later that the redevelopment plan is about three months away from completion.
Restaurant, craft brewery coming to Union Station
The Joliet City Council approved a lease agreement with Golden Spike, a restaurant and craft brewery, looking to set up shop at Union Station.
City staff has been working with the owners to bring the business to town over the last five months.
Changes in Joliet’s downtown zoning and liquor license regulations were approved at the regular City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 2. Lease negotiations were completed as of last week, after several rounds of meetings.
Golden Spike would occupy 12,700 square feet of the interior space at Union Station, with a final square footage to be determined after completion of architectural work. The business will also be allowed to use the patio space near Jefferson for outdoor seating.
Its owners will be extended a rent credit, valued at no more than $300,000, for tenant improvements to the property, according to the agreement.
Officials hope the private-public partnership established between the city and Golden Spike will help reshape Joliet in accordance with the downtown development plan.
City adopts downtown development plan
Also at that meeting, officials approved the adoption of a downtown plan for Joliet.
The city last reviewed the proposed initiatives and priorities during a special City Council meeting in October. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning awarded Joliet a technical assistance grant for design work after subsequent development t plan reviews by the City Center Partnership and the Economic Development Committee.
The City Council’s adoption of the Joliet downtown plan allows the project to get underway, ahead of the next EDC meeting.
Fire Department contract for self-contained breathing apparatus approved
City officials awarded $24,170 contract to Grainger Supply for the purchase of self-contained breathing apparatuses for the Joliet Fire Department.
The equipment allows firefighters to function in toxic atmospheres to complete assigned tasks. The contract allows the purchase of SCBA, which will have a shelf life of 15 years and then must be destroyed.
Firefighters have utilized SCBAs as part of their protective gear dating back as far as 1951.
In looking at the timeframe and expiration dates for SCBA, officials said a large number of these mechanisms would need to be replaced. Funding for the apparatuses will be allotted in the 2016 firefighting equipment budget.