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Article posted: 4/17/2013 4:24 PM

Cook County OKs program to boost transit-oriented development

Toni Preckwinkle

Toni Preckwinkle

 
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Cook County soon will offer federal loan guarantees for economic development projects that feature transportation and job growth opportunities.

The county board voted Wednesday to participate in the U.S. Housing and Urban Development program.

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County officials are still determining how the loans will be issued, but the $30 million available has to be allocated by February 2014, according to the county's bureau of economic development.

At least 15 projects could receive funding because of a $2 million cap on individual loans.

The loans are part of a HUD program called Broadening Urban Investment to Leverage Transportation. The types of projects eligible for the funding would have to be one of four kinds of development plans:

•Transit-oriented, mixed-use developments within a half-mile of passenger rail.

•Cargo-oriented projects near freight rail lines and terminals.

•Mixed-use hospitality/service sector projects near transit lines.

•Business development.

"The (program) will allow the county to be an active participant in financing business expansion, retaining businesses and producing jobs in the county," said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. "Economic growth and job creation have been an important focus of my administration and this program can be a powerful tool to drive economic development."

Project underwriting will be done in collaboration with private lenders, but county officials said how that will take shape is still being ironed out.

In addition to the types of projects that are eligible, the projects must meet other criteria. The development or business growth loans must benefit low- and moderate-income residents by making more than half the jobs created available to those types of workers. Financing is limited to 15 percent of the project or $2 million, whichever is less.

"This program will assist us in leveraging capital for the development of rail and light industrial opportunities," Herman Brewer, the county's economic development bureau chief told the county board before Wednesday's vote.

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