JOLIET – Downtowns “are tough,” a city consultant told Joliet officials last week.
And, Joliet’s apparently isn’t any different.
Joliet is restructuring its downtown tax increment financing district to make the incentive available for 23 more years while broadening the area it covers.
Geoffrey Dickinson, senior vice president with SB Friedman, the consulting firm that helps Joliet establish its TIF Districts, said Joliet is not alone when it comes to prolonging the tax incentive.
“We work in a lot of downtowns, and downtowns are tough,” Dickinson told the city council Tuesday during a public hearing on the proposed TIF extension. “We have to do this in more and more places because the job’s not done in a lot of towns.”
The city council is expected to vote on the TIF proposal at its March 6 meeting.
TIF districts provide property tax incentives to encourage private investment in land development or building renovations in areas that meet certain criteria for economic hardship.
A 23-year limit is put on the incentive since it redirects any increase in property taxes that come from building improvements away from local government and into private land development.
The downtown Joliet TIF was set up in 2000 and expires in 2023.
City officials want to extend it, saying the five years left on the TIF does not offer enough incentive for any big projects contemplated for downtown.
There have been nine redevelopment projects in the downtown TIF district.
Those two buildings are in an area within what will be a reduced version of the existing TIF district. The TIF incentives there will run out in 2023.
Meanwhile, the city is creating a new 23-year TIF district that will include some of the existing TIF and much more.
The new TIF district will include 175 acres and 211 buildings. The existing district will be reduced from its current size of 91 acres to 12.5 acres.
Ethan Lassiter, an associate with SB Friedman, said a study of the new TIF area showed no new private construction between 2012 and 2016. In that period, 13 permits were issued for small remodeling projects.
“Lots of buildings we assume are pretty old,” Lassiter told the council, but he was unable to find records showing when many of the buildings were constructed. Much of downtown was built in the early 20th century, and some buildings go back to the 19th century.
The SB Friedman analysis looked for private, not public, construction projects, so it did not reflect much of the downtown construction that has occurred – the expansion of Joliet Junior College’s downtown campus and the building of a new train station.