BY JENNIFER BAILEY
Tax Increment Financing district funding has come under scrutiny lately by some aldermen who disagreed with the city using it to help pay for an environmentally friendly parking lot and storm water improvements on the Danville High School campus.
City officials said the project fit the eligible expenses required for TIF use and was a good example of making improvements and an impact on an area just as TIF funding has helped businesses.
TIF districts have been in the city for eight years now.
The Midtown TIF district has made the most impact, being the one in existence the longest. City officials hope to see new, mixed-income housing take shape in the Midtown area to replace public housing units, and hope to see the East Voorhees TIF also start seeing some action.
Vermilion Advantage President and CEO Vicki Haugen said “things are in play right now.” She said there are “three different transactions” in the works in the East Voorhees Street area. One project could be announced by June, with another shortly after that, Haugen said.
All of the projects are industrial projects investing in the East Voorhees area, with TIF dollars as incentives for redevelopment funding.
Mayor Scott Eisenhauer wouldn’t comment on the possible developments in the East Voorhees Street area. He, too, hopes for mid-summer announcements.
“Obviously we’ve seen some nice success in the Midtown (TIF),” Eisenhauer said.
City officials also have “done a great deal of planning,” with the Western Gateway TIF district area, with not all of that coming to fruition, he added.
“I am very excited about future opportunities with the East Main Street (TIF district),” Eisenhauer added.
He said there are steps to take first, such as acquiring properties and demolition work, before the area would be ready for any type of development.
“We’ve all talked about reinvigorating the East Voorhees industrial corridor,”
Eisenhauer said about industrial redevelopments there.
The other TIFs have seen the Mach 1 gas station on Gilbert Street, Carle Clinic on Fairchild Street, Th Snyder receiving $450,000 for moving into the former McDowell Builders building on Oak Street and other businesses move in or benefit from TIF funding for acquisition, rehab, etc., such as Courtesy Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge with its Main Street dealership.
There still are redevelopment agreements for funding reimbursements to Carle, Mach 1 and the Social Security building north of the New Holland Apartments. The Mach 1 agreement is six years into a 10-year agreement, with the city paying back 50 percent of the increment each year. Total paid out has been $107,540.
The maximum that the city will pay out with the agreement is $185,000 if the 10 years isn’t reached first, according to Chris Milliken, urban planning manager with the city.
Carle’s agreement was 15 years with a maximum payout of $2 million. That agreement is in year six, with a total payout so far of $682,710. That agreement was for 80 percent of the increment.
For the Social Security building, the agreement was for 10 years or a maximum $170,000 reimbursement of 50 percent of the increment each year. The agreement is in its third year, with some increment reimbursed last year.
Eisenhauer said for those three reimbursement agreements, the projects obviously have increased the value of the properties.
The projects involved taking a dilapidated or vacant property for redevelopment and being a catalyst in the short-term or long-term for other development in that surrounding area, he said.
Haugen said TIF districts have “been abused in the north part of the state historically.” But the TIF laws in Illinois are stringent in how the money can be used, she added.
Haugen said it’s not the objective of a business to come in and spend a lot of money to clear a site.
“(A TIF district) creates a vehicle to provide enhancement,” she said.
The enterprise zone, with the Voorhees and Midtown TIFs, make the incentives even more powerful, she added, about property tax abatement and sales tax incentives. The Midtown TIF has taken in a little more than $2 million in increments since 2006.
Developments still are hoped for in the Campus Corridor TIF, around Danville Area Community College, but Haugen said student housing won’t lead the charge. The Campus Corridor TIF has had no projects since it was formed in September 2008 except for a demolition.
Milliken said there is not much in the way of finances to work with. The Western Gateway TIF has taken into its account, $338,125. Projects have included the municipal parking lot re-design, various appraisals, property acquisition and demolition at 121 E. Main St. of the former National Cut Rate Liquors building, demolition of a fire-damaged building next to the David S. Palmer Arena and $200,000 to Courtesy, J.R. Fregia for interior remodeling at 231 W. Main St.
Demolitions have caused drops in property values and decreasing increments.
The city will start to see some increment for the first time this year with the East Voorhees TIF district. The former WITS building and other vacant buildings could be looked at for development.