JOLIET – Ramona Jarvis’s family has run an answering service business out of an office building on Springfield Avenue for 35 years.
Jarvis is in the process of buying the building and the one next door, putting some confidence in Joliet’s plan for a tax increment financing district that would provide tax incentives to encourage investment in the business neighborhood that surrounds Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center.
“If you drive through the neighborhood, there are umpteen properties looking for tenants,” Jarvis said Thursday.
Her family’s office building is one of them. The building next door is in foreclosure and deteriorating. Jarvis is buying it to preserve her immediate surroundings. But she had considered moving the business elsewhere before deciding to stay.
“I think it’s a neighborhood we can save,” Jarvis said, pointing to new development on nearby Jefferson Street as a sign of improvement. “In such an area, where you’re tentative about investing at all, to have the city saying we’re willing to help you makes a huge difference. I have a positive mindset.”
Jarvis was one of several speakers this week who were at a public hearing on the proposed TIF district. They urged the City Council to approve the plan when it comes up for a vote at the Jan. 17 council meeting.
A study commissioned by the city found that the equalized assessed value – the value of property assessed for tax purposes – in the TIF area has declined every year from 2010 to 2015.
The EAV in the TIF area has declined as Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center has continually invested in upgrading the hospital campus.
Ed Dollinger, chairman of the board at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center, told the council that $500 million has been spent in the past decade on new construction and development to upgrade the hospital campus.
“That world-class image is a little hard to imagine in our neighborhood,” Dollinger said.
More is at stake than the hospital’s image, Dollinger said, noting that about 100 patients a month come to Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center from outside Will County.
“As a result,” he told the council, “our city of Joliet really becomes a destination point for quality health care.”
Those patients and their visitors often get their impression of the city from their visit to the hospital, he said.
Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center moved into the area in 1964, initiating the development of what has been one of Joliet’s premier professional office areas.
The TIF area runs east from Hammes Avenue to Republic Avenue. It stretches north of Jefferson Street to Glenwood Avenue.
Besides the hospital, many of the buildings are office buildings for doctors and medical facilities. Republic Avenue includes a mix of office, industrial and retail businesses.
The EAV of the area has declined from $27.5 million in 2010 to $22 million in 2015, according to a study by S.B. Friedman & Co.
The study was done to determine whether the area qualifies for a TIF district.
The area covers 147 acres, seven of which are vacant.
The TIF area includes 75 buildings. Fifty-eight buildings are 35 years or older.
The study found that 81 of 110 parcels showed some sign of deterioration, although that ranged from crumbling stairs and missing gutters to cracks in parking lot paving.
“It’s an older area,” Geoffrey Dickinson of S.B. Friedman said in his presentation of the study to the council last week, “and therefore the city may need to be involved in development through a TIF area.”