Riverside now has three separate officially designated business districts along its Harlem Avenue border after trustees voted 5-0 to create two new districts and impose a 1-percent sales tax to help spur redevelopment in those areas.

One of the business districts extends along Harlem Avenue from roughly Addison Road to Lawton Road and includes key commercial properties west of Harlem Avenue on either side of East Burlington Street. Those properties include the vacant Bank of America building and the long-vacant mixed-use building at 363-69 E. Burlington St.

The other new business district runs along Harlem Avenue from Blackhawk Road to Ogden Avenue and then west on Ogden Avenue to Lionel Road. The district is probably the one that has the best potential for future redevelopment, with large commercial properties that could be assembled to accommodate a significant development.

Included within the business district are the Loyola Medicine Professional Building at the corner of Harlem ad Ogden and an adjacent medical office building to the west. Both properties include sizable parking lots. 

The district includes the White Fence Farm restaurant property at Harlem and Blackhawk. It also includes a residential property at the corner of Ogden and Lionel, which was included to allow public infrastructure improvements that can be funded by the business district to extend all the way to that intersection.

Riverside created its first business district on Harlem Avenue from Berkeley to just south of Longcommon Road in 2017.

Business districts are governed by state statute and are similar in some ways to tax increment financing (TIF) districts, although they do not sequester property taxes in order to create a source of funds to promote redevelopment.

Like a TIF, a business district lasts for 23 years and during that time municipalities can collect a special 1-percent sales tax that goes into a separate business district fund. 

That money can only be spent for initiatives within the business district, for things such as property acquisition and assembly, public infrastructure improvements, construction costs for buildings, offering financial incentives for development or conducting planning or marketing studies.

The Business District Act allows municipalities to designate areas as business districts in order to foster economic activity in areas where commercial properties are underutilized or blighted, whose platting is obsolete or have inadequate street layouts.

The village undertook the effort to create the business districts last July, holding a pair of public hearings as well as a meeting with property owners in the proposed business districts (via Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic) before trustees voted to create the districts last week.