The village of Riverside is considering the creation of an official business district on Harlem Avenue north of Longcommon Road, something officials say might entice development of a number of underutilized commercial properties there.

Village Manager Jessica Frances said she wants to hire a consulting firm to begin analyzing the feasibility of creating such a district, which would require the village to impose a Business District Development and Redevelopment Sales Tax of up to 1-percent.

The tax would be levied on merchandise sold and services provided within the business district, whose boundaries must contain contiguous properties. Like a tax increment financing (TIF) district the business district tax can be imposed for no longer than 23 years.

Funds collected via the tax can be used for development costs related to the business district. Declaring the area to be a business district also apparently gives the village greater leverage with respect to eminent domain.

“Especially when you’re looking at potential developers with respect to condemnation,” Frances said, “it makes it easier to facilitate that.”

It’s unclear exactly what the boundaries of a business district would be, and between Longcommon Road and the Canadian National Railroad tracks there are just two businesses.

While there is a busy 7-Eleven gas station located on the southwest corner of 26th Street and Harlem Avenue, the commercial properties located between the Canadian National Railroad tracks and Longcommon Road are languishing.

TitleMax, a title loan company, recently abandoned its office at 2704 Harlem Ave. with more than two years left on its lease. A longtime dry-cleaning business at 2710 Harlem Ave. is also vacant and a strip mall immediately adjacent at 2720 Harlem Ave. has had trouble maintaining tenants in recent years.

Village officials have identified the three parcels between Longcommon and the tracks as an opportunity for assemblage and development. Starbucks at one time proposed a location at 2704 Harlem Ave., but that fizzled during the real estate crash of 2008.

“We need all three of them to make it work,” said Village President Ben Sells, during a discussion of the business district proposal at the board of trustees’ meeting on April 21.

Frances said she has received quotes from two consultants and would be attempting to get a third quote before moving ahead “in relatively short order.” The cost for the consulting work likely will be less than $20,000, which is the limit the village manager is authorized to spend without a vote approving the expenditure by the village board.

The entire process for creating the business district would be about six or seven months, Frances said, and the process does include public hearings.

Brewery bypassed for now

On April 21, the owner of the property at 43 E. Quincy St. announced that the former American Legion Hall building was under contract to a Riverside resident who proposed using it as an office space.

Thomas Barr, who has owned the building since 1988, also had an offer on the property from Ancient Owl Brewing Company. Riverside Community Development Director Sonya Abt confirmed that Marcin Andruszkiewicz, the owner of Ancient Owl Brewing, had withdrawn his application for a special use permit, which was to have been considered by the Planning and Zoning Commission on April 27. The commission will still consider amendments to the zoning code proposed by the board of trustees, which would allow microbreweries as a permitted use in the downtown retail core district and along Harlem Avenue.

According to Village President Ben Sells, Andruszkiewicz is still interested in Riverside as a location.

“We’re going to show him other places in town, and see whether he’s open to doing that or not,” Sells said.

The prospective buyer of 43 E. Quincy St. would have to get a special use permit to operate the property as office space. Barr on April 18 asked the village board to consider amending the zoning code to permit more uses, such as professional offices, in the B-2 Mixed Use Periphery district where 43 E. Quincy St. is located.

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