Harlem and Circle intersection. Google Maps

Forest Park expects a proposed Circle/Harlem Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district would generate at least $16 million, with the village planning to spend the majority of that on public improvements.

With the Brown/Harlem TIF set to expire at the end of this year, the village is looking to create a new TIF that covers a similar area and “port” the $4 million in unused TIF funds from the old TIF. In order to create a new TIF, the village must put together a redevelopment plan broadly outlining how much money the taxing district is expected to generate and what the village would use that money for. The village council is expected to approve the TIF on Nov. 13, but in the meantime, a copy of the plan is available at the Village Clerk’s Office upon request.

The village previously indicated that they intended to use the TIF to help fund the long-discussed Harlem Avenue railroad bridge renovations, replacing lead water pipes and, potentially, demolishing the water tower in the CTA railyard. The plan does not specifically mention these, or any other specific projects, but does say that TIF revenue must be spent on accomplishing certain goals of the village’s 2014 comprehensive plan. That includes reducing flooding, encouraging mixed-use development, and making Forest Park more pedestrian-friendly while also expanding parking.

When a TIF is created, the amount of property tax revenue the taxing bodies collect every year is frozen at current levels. As assessments and levies rise, the surplus money is deposited into a TIF fund. The idea is that the new development would raise the property values, which would increase property tax revenue in the long run. 

The major differences are: Most residential buildings that are part of the current TIF wouldn’t be part of the new TIF, and it would include a larger portion of the Harlem Avenue commercial corridor, reaching all the way down to Madison Street.

Since the Circle/Harlem TIF would be a new district, the frozen levy would be reset from 2000 levels to 2023 levels. Former village administrator Moses Amidei previously estimated that it would more than double the tax revenue the taxing bodies are currently getting. The redevelopment plan estimates that the equalized assessed value (EAV) of the properties that would fall within the new TIF is over $10.3 million. The plan projects that, after 23 years, when the TIF would expire (unless it’s extended), the EAV within the TIF would go up to anywhere between $17.5 million and $22.5 million. 

According to the redevelopment plan, more than half of the money, $8.5 million, would go toward public improvements. This covers a broad range of improvements, with the plan specifically mentioning sewer and road improvements as examples, whereas $2 million would go toward land acquisition and relocation, and another $2 million would target site demolition and environmental clean-up. Building rehabilitation and more cosmetic improvements such as façade improvements would see $1.5 million, and $250,000 would go toward job training. 

A half-million dollars would be used to help Forest Park School District 91 and Proviso Township High School District 209 cover the costs of teaching new students in any new housing that would be built with TIF funds. This is something Forest Park is required to do under state law. The remaining costs have to do with administrative and legal aspects of running the TIF.

The plan specifies that the numbers are not final. They can be adjusted due to inflation and project needs. The village can either use the money directly or make it available to a developer.