Evanston's city council is expected to vote tonight on a tax-increment financing district and redevelopment plan for the southwest corner of Dempster Street and Dodge Avenue.
Under a proposal created by the city’s economic development department and consultant Kane, McKenna and Associates, the Evanston Plaza shopping center could benefit from up to $20 million in tax increment financing over the next 23 years.
With a vacancy rate of 52 percent and store sizes too large to attract new tenants, the shopping center has been in decline for years. According to Paul Zalmezak, economic development planner, the TIF district would allow the city to reinvest expected tax gains into the shopping center in order to spur growth and make renovations.
“Frankly, it’s the strongest tool available for hyperlocal economic development,” he told the council at at a meeting Monday, May 16. “And the value created in the TIF district is recycled directly back into the district.”
Since the center was recently purchased by Bonnie Management, Zalmezak said a TIF district could be a way to help the new owners attract better tenants.
“We want to incentivize them a little bit and maybe leverage something a little bit above average,” he said.
Part of the problem with the shopping center is its layout, with store sizes that were designed for users that have long since left, like Toys ‘R Us and Blockbuster. A TIF district could give the city funds and power to revamp the layout, according to Robert Rychlicki of Kane, McKenna, and help the city attract new tenants through targeted marketing.
Tonight's city council meeting begins at 7:15 p.m. at the Lorraine Morton Civic Center. Other agenda items include discussion of prohibited parking on Sheridan Road and Davis Street as well as two liquor license applications. Those come from a cocktail bar planned for Howard Street called Ward Eight and a new business on Main Street, to be called The Alcove.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled the last name of Paul Zalmezak, economic development planner for the city of Evanston. We sincerely regret the error.