It seems clear that if the soon-to-be vacant Edward Don property at 26th Street and Harlem Avenue in North Riverside is to be re-developed into a sales-tax producing engine in the future, it’s going to take the participation of village government.
The reality, as we saw play out in Woodridge, is that there are municipalities with far greater land resources they can leverage to lure sales-tax producing companies. The land is typically vacant and does not contribute anything of great value, so giving loads of tax breaks in exchange for a long-term commitment isn’t a tough decision to make. Those towns are not losing anything in the deal, really.
North Riverside is in a somewhat different position. The landlocked village has to make sure its already profitable properties remain that way. Giving away the store to lure a business could have just as damaging an effect on local revenues as letting the site go dark.
There is a balancing act that needs to be done here, and done nimbly.
Quite frankly, the recent push by the owner of the Edward Don property to light a fire under the village to make a deal with a big-box retailer, sounds a lot like a very hard sell. While North Riverside needs to listen carefully and be flexible enough to try to help such a deal (if there really is one) happen, it can’t simply be bullied into handing out charity to corporations while local residents keep feeling the hit of the economy.
Unless the deal is going to bring blockbuster sales-tax revenue into the village coffers within a relatively short period of time, it’s going to be hard for North Riverside to sell a big financial incentives package to residents.
And yet, North Riverside has planned itself into this corner. By staking its financial life on the collection of sales taxes from its retail hub, it needs to replace the loss of Edward Don as quickly as possible.
TIF districts are not the answer. North Riverside has always avoided creating TIF districts to spur development, and the history of the commercial districts in the village show that this was a wise choice.
In case anyone was thinking TIFs might be the answer now, we don’t believe so. First, we don’t believe the shopping areas could possibly qualify for such designation and, second, District 96 and District 208 depend on the property tax revenue from that area. The last thing District 208, especially, needs is to have part of their property tax base frozen for the next two decades.
What North Riverside ought to do immediately is seek the advice of experts and not simply rely on the village board and administration to figure this one out. The village needs to get this one right, and officials should seek out whoever it is they need to help them get that accomplished, soon.