Chicago Ridge mayor envisions mixed-use development at old Yellow site

  • Written by Kevin M. Coyne

Abandoned trucking terminal comprises 75 acres of proposed TIF district

When the mayor of Chicago Ridge looks at the swath of largely vacant properties along the village’s Harlem Road frontage, he envisions a mixed-use development-- spurred by the establishment of a tax increment financing district – that would generate both retail and property tax revenues.

The Chicago Ridge Village Board last month approved a proposal to Chicago-based developer Weston Solutions for the firm to redevelop land that includes the former Yellow Freight site at 103rd Street and Harlem Avenue. The 75-acre abandoned trucking terminal would comprise roughly half the size of a tax increment financing (TIF) district that would also include the shuttered Aldi, in the 10500 block of Harlem, and the long-closed Nikobee’s at the northeast corner of 103rd and Harlem.

CNSMR ridgeTIF 4colThe abandoned Yellow trucking terminal, 103rd Street and Harlem Avenue in Chicago Ridge, is the centerpiece of a proposed TIF district that Mayor Chuck Tokar believes is a prime area for a mixed-use development. Photo by Kevin M. CoyneVillage officials are hopeful the properties qualify under Illinois TIF district statutes that include various factors such as blight and the age of buildings . The special taxing district would be bounded by Harlem, Southwest Highway and the Tri-State Tollway.

“One thing to remember is that the TIF district is more than just Yellow Freight and is double the size in acres,” said Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar. “Developing a mix-use facility will bring in tax revenue but besides just revenue, the TIF district will also bring jobs to the village.

“We will be speaking with Weston Solutions and Yellow Freight to determine what will benefit the village, developers and Yellow. We want to develop a mix-use development with a mixture of retail, office space and entertainment.”

Creating a TIF district would enable the village to float bonds that would help Weston finance the construction of a mixed-use development at the Yellow site and throughout the district. In a TIF district, real estate tax revenues yielded by properties that increase in value are used to fund improvements within the district, or as an incentive to the developer.

“I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of creating a TIF district,” said Tokar. “We created TIF districts for the Commons (south of the Chicago Ridge Mall) and the Industrial Park, and both proved beneficial in terms of jobs and tax revenue. Once we begin to develop a mix-use development we will entice businesses to come into the village and it will help to keep a lid on property tax, said Tokar.

While negotiations are underway with Weston, the village will continue to seek out bond counsel to help regulate the issuance of bonds and the oversight of financing the project using increment tax revenues.

Establishing a TIF district is one of the most common uses of public funds as a catalyst for economic development. Typically, a TIF is created only if municipal officials believe it is the best way to redevelop the designated area.

Critics of TIF district often oppose the use of public tax dollars as an incentive to private developers, and sometimes state TIF district work to dissuade other business from moving to a non-TIF area because of the “free pass” a developer of the TIF district received.