The village of Brookfield may be in line for its fourth tax increment financing (TIF) district, this time focused on the historic downtown area in the Grand Boulevard/Prairie Avenue business district.
On Feb. 11, village trustees gave the go ahead for Kane, McKenna and Associates to conduct a TIF feasibility study to see if the area qualifies for the designation, to prepare preliminary estimates of the kind of incremental tax revenue that can be created and establish the boundaries of the potential TIF.
While the village board has steered clear of a TIF in the Grand/Prairie district in the past, the arrival of Village Manager Timothy Wiberg breathed life into the concept.
“When I came here and when I was doing my research on the village, I thought the downtown had so much potential,” said Wiberg. “There are things we can do to increase the vibrancy and make it more of a destination. But absent a TIF district there’s no other reliable source of funding.”
In his memo to the village board, which was discussed on Feb. 11, Director of Community and Economic Development Nicholas Greifer called out impediments to development in the Grand/Prairie area that could be addressed through a TIF.
One parcel, in particular, is the triangular site bounded by Fairview Avenue, Brookfield Avenue and Sunnyside Avenue. Once home to a gas station and now home to a vacant dental office and a storage building belonging to Brookfield Zoo, the property is in a prime location for transit-oriented development.
However, the site’s past life as a gas station has scared away developers unsure of the costs to remediate the property. A TIF might also provide revenue to address parking if the area undergoes significant redevelopment. TIF funds could also be used to assemble property along Grand Boulevard, where oddly shaped, shallow lots pose hurdles for modern development.
“I think the goal is to give us flexibility to meet some of these challenges,” Greifer said.
A rough map of the proposed boundaries for the downtown TIF could be ready for the village board’s next meeting on Feb. 25, Greifer said. The map likely would take in property on both sides of the railroad tracks, along the 3700 blocks of Grand Boulevard and Sunnyside Avenue, parts of Brookfield Avenue, Fairview Avenue and Burlington Avenue.
TIF districts are often large areas of obsolete commercial and industrial land where development is difficult without ways to fund critical infrastructure improvements, assemble property or provide incentives for development.
Over a period of 23 years, property assessments are frozen with respect to property tax revenue going to local agencies such as schools and municipal, township and county government. Instead, any incremental increases in tax revenue realized through higher assessments are held in a special fund and can be used only within the TIF district to help fund infrastructure improvements, property acquisition and economic incentives for prospective developers.
Brookfield’s first TIF, which stretches the length of Ogden Avenue from Custer to Eberly, was cut from that traditional mold. However, subsequent TIFs in Brookfield have been focused narrowly. The Congress Park TIF includes just a small section of land along the 4000 block of DuBois Boulevard, which essentially acts as an extension to the Ogden Avenue TIF.
But with the Eight Corners TIF, established by 2016, and the proposed downtown TIF the village has sought to boost prospects for development in areas where redevelopment is seen as difficult, though not impossible.
The Eight Corners experience, said Wiberg, shows TIFs can work well in targeted areas where development is otherwise difficult.
“We’re doing really good, important projects because of the TIF,” said Wiberg, referring to new streetlights along Broadway Avenue and the demolition of the Brookfield Bowl, which are being funded in whole or in part through TIF proceeds.
It will cost between $7,000 and $10,000 for Kane, McKenna to complete the report. It could be ready for the village board to review by the end of March. If the area qualifies for TIF designation, the village board could then employ Kane, McKenna to complete a TIF redevelopment plan that would outline projected costs for redevelopment projects within the TIF district.
That second phase, which would cost the village between $19,500 and $22,000, would also trigger public hearings and convene a joint review board featuring representatives from all taxing bodies within the TIF, including school districts, Cook County and township government.
It would take about four months to complete that second phase, meaning that the earliest the village board might vote to create a downtown TIF district would be late summer.