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TIF districts could lead to new development in Waukegan

Waukegan Alderman LisMay supported creatiTIF districts. | SUN-TIMES MEDIA FILE PHOTO

Waukegan Alderman Lisa May supported the creation of TIF districts. | SUN-TIMES MEDIA FILE PHOTO

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Updated: February 28, 2014 4:20AM

Waukegan’s latest bid to redevelop its lakefront and downtown moved forward when the City Council approved the formation of three Tax Increment Financing districts and struck a one-year deal with former Kenosha mayor John Antaramian to serve as an economic development consultant.

“We are ripe for development on the lakefront,” 7th Ward Ald. Lisa May said following the unanimous council votes on the measures earlier this month. “I hope that we market our TIFs and use them as a tool to attract developers and business, and then maybe in future years, we won’t have the hard, hard decision about every increment that we have to raise the tax levy and stop relying so much on tax dollars.”

All told, the three new TIFs are designed to generate $374 million for redevelopment during the 20-year life of the districts.

Property-tax collections for all parcels in the districts will be held at a base level over that time, and any revenue increases generated from new development or rising land value will be dedicated to Waukegan for investment in redevelopment, typically through issuance of bonds paid off with TIF dollars.

One district centers on not only downtown but also the harbor area and surrounding lakefront, while another extends north of Grand Avenue and east of the Amstutz Expressway, and the other runs south from Belvidere Road to 10th Street.

The south lakefront TIF also extends west to include commercial and residential sectors along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Oak Street.

Mayor Wayne Motley said the TIFs are part of several economic-development strategies that have taken shape over the last six months, including the recent approval of a 65-unit residential project on River Road.

“Hopefully, Waukegan will be moving forward faster than anyone can ever imagine. I hope that does become a reality,” Motley said. “The lakefront will redevelop. ... You’re going to see this city grow by leaps and bounds in the not-too-distant future.”

Regarding the $60,000 contract with Antaramian’s Emerging Communities Corp., a consulting business he formed after retiring as mayor in 2008, Motley said he expects Antaramian “to help us through this struggle” of redevelopment.

Antaramian’s 16-year tenure in Kenosha witnessed the overhaul of the former lakefront American Motors/Chrysler site into HarborPark, a 70-acre amenity that includes walkways and a public museum.

He told the council that he sees parallels between the two Lake Michigan communities.

“From my perspective, the city of Waukegan is a very exciting location,” he said. “You have such a wonderful opportunity here, and I’m looking forward to working with all of you and seeing it move forward.”

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