This is the first of a long series of blogs about the 2011 Consolidated Elections featuring local issues for local candidates. The purpose is to contribute to better informed voters by encouraging open discussion.
The City of Sycamore is looking at two different projects for its Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program. One would invest TIF funds for needed repairs to make the 130-year-old former Chicago & Northwestern Railroad depot located at the corner of Sacramento Street and DeKalb Avenue in Sycamore structurally sound and therefore more attractive for private investment. The other project would use TIF funding to demolish the former Fargo Motors building for a new commercial development.
The old CNW depot was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It was donated back to the City of Sycamore by Auto Meter, the depot’s former owner. The Douglas C. and Lynn M. Roberts Family Foundation is donating $300,000 to cover a majority of the structural repairs. To provide off-street parking and access to Sacramento Street the city also purchased additional land east and north of the depot from Auto Meter for $71,025. The city may need to use about $50,000 in Tax Increment Financing money for additional repairs that would then hopefully entice private investment.
The former Fargo Motors building located at 437 W. State St., has been vacant for several years and recently went through foreclosure. Local developer, John Pappas, purchased it for $300,000 and following TIF guidelines applied for $61,680 for demolition of the building. He plans to develop more than 10,000 square feet of ground level retail space with four to five apartments on the upper levels. The project was approved unanimously at the January 18, 2011 regular city council meeting.
Which is the better use of the TIF funding? The CNW depot project preserves a historic building and a city landmark. Private funds (donations) secured the site and provided a majority of the structural repair costs but the final use of the building is speculative. The Fargo Motors project replaces a deteriorating building with a new retail shopping center with some apartments. Private investment required to complete the redevelopment has already been acquired.
For bonus discussion the merits of the TIF program is open. 🙂
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