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updated: 6/25/2014 6:45 PM

With Town Center on the line, Wheeling makes final offer

Fate of Town Center project is on the line, mayor says

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  • The latest rendering for the proposed Wheeling Town Center, which village officials say is doomed if other governing bodies sue to overturn two tax increment financing districts.

      The latest rendering for the proposed Wheeling Town Center, which village officials say is doomed if other governing bodies sue to overturn two tax increment financing districts.
    Courtesy of village of Wheeling

 

Wheeling has made a "very, very generous" -- and final -- offer to the four government bodies threatening to sue if the village board establishes two new tax increment financing districts, Village President Dean Argiris said this week.

Argiris did not reveal details of the offer. He said, however, that if the parties sue, the Town Center project in Wheeling is doomed because of the length of time settling the suit would take.

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Wheeling Township Elementary District 21, Northwest Suburban High School District 214, the Wheeling Park District and Indian Trails Library District object to Wheeling's plan to dump two existing TIF districts and start up two new ones -- saying they will lose significant tax money.

Wheeling officials say they need the full 23 years allowed for a TIF district to make the redevelopment projects successful.

The school, park and library districts, however, say Wheeling's proposal is illegal. TIF districts are limited by law to 23 years, so to get around that the village is ending the Town Center and Southeast TIF districts prematurely and setting up "new" TIF districts that can go the entire 23 years, the governments argue.

The current Town Center TIF district is due to expire in 2026 and the Southeast TIF in 2031.

Meanwhile, Dean Krone, an Arlington Heights attorney representing the four governing bodies, said his clients will try to respond to the village's latest offer this week.

"It is the most we can give," Argiris said. "We can't give what we don't have."

The tentative agenda for the Monday, June 30, Wheeling village board meeting includes establishing the Town Center TIF district for Dundee Road near village hall, in and around village-owned property that once held Wickes Furniture, and the Southeast TIF district near Chicago Executive Airport.

The board could then approve a development agreement with Urban R2 for the Wickes property at its next meeting, said John Melaniphy, the village's director of economic development.

Companies involved in the $100 million Town Center project, near the Metra station and the refurbished Heritage Park, flew their executives into Wheeling to attend the June 16 board meeting.

Brad Friedman, executive vice president of Urban R2, said the new TIF districts are "essential" to pay for infrastructure, public improvements and the Village Green -- anticipated to host art fairs, street festivals, farmers markets and the like.

Also on June 16, the four governments issued a joint statement saying the village board should not approve the new TIF districts in the face of their objection, and without having an intergovernmental agreement in place.

"When the Village of Wheeling dissolved the Town Center and Southeast TIF districts with the intent of resetting them, we had and continue to have a responsibility and obligation to question the action," it read in part. "We remain deeply concerned about the precedent a reset would cause, and have continued concerns regarding the legality of such an unprecedented TIF reset."

The first Flix Brewhouse in Illinois -- a combination eight-screen cinema, restaurant and brewery -- is expected to anchor the Town Center project. The project would break ground early in 2015 with the Texas-based Brewhouse opening June 2016. Luxury apartments and other retail stores would come online later that year.

Friedman said the commercial area will have surface parking because shoppers have a negative attitude toward parking garages.

Allan Reagan, CEO of Flix Brewhouse, said his brewhouse, movie and restaurant establishments appeal to families even though their "niche" is an on-site brewery. The 6,500 guests per week in Wheeling would spend an average of $23 each, grossing $1 million per year for each of the eight screens, he predicts.

Several other restaurants and retailers are interested in the Town Center but will not commit until the village signs a redevelopment agreement, Friedman said.

When a TIF district is created, property taxes are frozen at their current levels, and additional revenue generated as the property is redeveloped is funneled back into the project.

Melaniphy said Urban R2 would get up to $8.6 million and another project would get $6.5 million from the TIF fund.

However, the village can also cut deals with the other taxing bodies that lose money with TIF districts.

Sfondilis says the village has declared $21.5 million in TIF district surpluses over the years -- money that has been returned to area taxing bodies.

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