Uptown in the News
August 20, 2003
An ongoing topic of controversy in Uptown, the Wilson Yard Tax Increment Financing district, continues to generate debate as new developments unfold in the plan that has been under scrutiny for the past five years.
The most recent episode took place Aug. 12 in City Council chambers with a hotly contested decision by Chicago's Community Development Commission to grant authority to redraw the TIF map to include a commercial stretch along the 4400 block of North Broadway.
Although no official deal has been made with the city, Catholic Charities has proposed to transform the building, known for its ornate terra-cotta façade and more than a half-dozen businesses---from a tattoo shop to a taqueria---into 80 to 100 apartments for low-income senior citizens, according to Ald. Helen Shiller (46th).
The decision to incorporate the building into the TIF district was passed by the commission with an amendment that the historic façade be considered for preservation in the redevelopment plan. With the building incorporated into the TIF district, Catholic Charities would be able to make use of funds generated by the TIF.
The decision has left some in the community unsettled.
"Before we knock down some of the most viable businesses in the area…the community would like to know what the plan is," said David Rowe, executive director of the Uptown Chicago Commission.
Furthermore, Rowe and others say that they think it's illogical to force out businesses using the very tool intended to stimulate commercial growth.
"A majority of us go outside of our area to spend our discretionary income," said Katharine Boyda, president of a local block club with 90 members in the area. "Low-cost housing will not do anything to create a successful TIF."
Boyda says she and others are ready for some more upscale businesses to settle into the community, and that the TIF is a great opportunity to court them.
The alderman, however, insists it is the will of the community to bring in more housing opportunities for seniors, who are getting squeezed trying to make rent on a fixed income.
Many residents, business leaders and the city Department of Planning and Development say they stand behind Shiller's effort. Among them is the Uptown Chamber of Commerce, a lead advocate for businesses in the community.
The chamber's executive director Solomon Chu said his group supports the plan as long as the businesses that would be displaced get a fair shake in the relocation deal.
Paul Collurafica, owner of the Tattoo Factory, 4408 N. Broadway, which has been in Uptown for the past 28 years, said that although he is unhappy about facing relocation, he favors a TIF development plan, which has not yet been unveiled by the developer.
"If this little corner is stopping us from moving forward, then we need to start moving forward," said Collurafica, who is also the vice president of the Uptown Chamber of Commerce.
Despite the continuing disagreements about the TIF, everyone can come together on one thing: They are ready to see something go up on the roughly 6-acre parcel of land left vacant when a CTA vehicle barn burned down in the late 1990s.
Shiller and Don Hohenadel, of the city's planning department, said including the building in the TIF will be a catalyst for finalizing the plans.
Collurafica is among many who is ready to see them.
"We've got a bunch of dead space behind us, dead space next to us…It will be nice to see something happen," he said.
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