The concept, we’re certain, is to add a car dealership to Roosevelt Road in Forest Park. Instead, Forest Park and its taxpayers keep paying real money to ping pong Currie Chevrolet from one spot on the street to another.
It happened before, and as of the village board meeting Monday night, it seems likely to happen again.
At the urging of Mayor Anthony Calderone, commissioners approved hiring Kane McKenna, respected municipal financial advisers, to help sort out what we’re sure is a complicated financial matter.
Let’s see: The mayor in his letter to commissioners advised that Currie Motors wants to relocate its dealership from 8401 W. Roosevelt to 7901 W. Roosevelt. And it wants “financial assistance in order to make this multimillion-dollar move.” Calderone said he has been negotiating with the owners of Currie about either support from the brand new Roosevelt TIF or some form of a sales tax rebate.
We’re all familiar with the sales tax rebate route since it was only in 2009 that Forest Park officials approved a $1.25 million sales tax rebate over 15 years to fund Currie’s relocation from 7901 W. Roosevelt Rd. to 8401 W. Roosevelt.
Yes, you’ve got that right. Same move. Reverse order.
We’ll allow that some things are just complicated. That was a tough year for car dealers. Massive recession. Chrysler, a brand long carried by Currie, had cut hundreds of dealers loose in a bankruptcy action — including Currie. Chevy demanded expensive facilities upgrades to keep that franchise. Its lease on the old Jerry Gleason Chevy site at Desplaines Avenue was expensive.
And from the village government’s point of view, even a car dealer getting a nice subsidy is still an asset to village finances.
Even so, Forest Park commissioners need to start this new round of negotiations with some caution and many questions. TIFs are created to add new business not simply to flop them around. What happens to the 8401 W. Roosevelt site? Who owns it? If it sits vacant, how hard will the property tax hit be? Will Currie purchase the old Gleason site? A $6 million mortgage was taken on that property by someone named Gleason in 2015. The village government filed a $40,000 water tax lien on the building in 2016. How strong are Currie’s financials overall? Who owns Currie now? The Review carried the obit of the firm’s very wealthy British owner a few years back. What’s the prognosis for accumulating tax increment in this still-new TIF? What other competing requests — the empty Ultra Foods — will put a claim on the finite resources of the TIF?
And finally, the council needs to take a meta-look at the auto industry. Ford bounced its chairman on Monday and replaced him with the head of its self-driving auto division. This is an industry where there is more change just ahead, not anything like simple stability.
We’re not for or against this concept. With a TIF in place, Currie would be nuts not to seek a subsidy. But this choice is not simple or obvious.