A 'second downtown' in Des Plaines? City leaders hope so with help of TIF district

  • Lots are for sale on Oakton Street east of Lee Street in Des Plaines, an area where the city wants to encourage more development.

      Lots are for sale on Oakton Street east of Lee Street in Des Plaines, an area where the city wants to encourage more development. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • A map shows the area surrounding Oakton and Lee streets in Des Plaines where city officials authorized a new tax increment financing district they hope will help spur the development of a "second downtown."

    A map shows the area surrounding Oakton and Lee streets in Des Plaines where city officials authorized a new tax increment financing district they hope will help spur the development of a "second downtown." Courtesy of Des Plaines

  • The Metra North Central Line crosses Oakton Street just east of Lee Street in Des Plaines. The city says a commuter stop there could help spur transit-oriented development of a "second downtown."

      The Metra North Central Line crosses Oakton Street just east of Lee Street in Des Plaines. The city says a commuter stop there could help spur transit-oriented development of a "second downtown." Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • The Butera Fruit Market, part of the shopping center near the intersection of Oakton and Lee streets in Des Plaines, is one of the newest businesses to open in the area.

      The Butera Fruit Market, part of the shopping center near the intersection of Oakton and Lee streets in Des Plaines, is one of the newest businesses to open in the area. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • The intersection of Oakton and Lee streets in Des Plaines is the heart of what the city envisions as a "second downtown."

      The intersection of Oakton and Lee streets in Des Plaines is the heart of what the city envisions as a "second downtown." Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • The city believes sites like this closed business and two vacant lots on Oakton Street just east of the Metra North Central Line in Des Plaines are more likely to be redeveloped with formation of a special taxing district to help pay for infrastructure for new developments.

      The city believes sites like this closed business and two vacant lots on Oakton Street just east of the Metra North Central Line in Des Plaines are more likely to be redeveloped with formation of a special taxing district to help pay for infrastructure for new developments. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • The Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce is among the occupants of storefronts on Oakton Street in Des Plaines.

      The Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce is among the occupants of storefronts on Oakton Street in Des Plaines. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Businesses line Oakton Street in Des Plaines, where city officials hope to spur development of a "second downtown."

      Businesses line Oakton Street in Des Plaines, where city officials hope to spur development of a "second downtown." Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Many types of businesses are along Oakton Street adjacent to the Metra North Central Line in Des Plaines, which city officials hope will become a "second downtown.".

      Many types of businesses are along Oakton Street adjacent to the Metra North Central Line in Des Plaines, which city officials hope will become a "second downtown.". Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 

Des Plaines wants to create a "second downtown" complete with apartments, shops and even a new train station.

For years, city leaders have eyed the struggling corridor at the intersection of Oakton and Lee streets as ripe with potential. Though it's seen some development recently, with the arrival of Butera Fruit Market, for example, the area has been somewhat forgotten, officials say.

"I think we've all become accustomed to them being quiet," 3rd Ward Alderman Denise Rodd said. "It's really dead. There's no activity on that section of Oakton."

Now it could get attention for years to come.

The city took its first steps this week toward creating a tax increment financing district, an economic development tool intended to encourage development in blighted or underutilized areas.

In a TIF district, increased tax revenues generated by new development are diverted to a fund used to pay for improvements within the area. Throughout the 23-year life of the district, other taxing bodies such as schools and park districts continue receiving tax revenues equal only to what they received when the district was created.

The diverted funds could be used to pay for public infrastructure improvements, such as roads and sidewalks, and provide financial assistance for private developments determined to be otherwise unfeasible.

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The resolution that aldermen unanimously approved Monday will convene a joint review board to discuss the potential TIF district with other taxing districts. That includes Cook County, Maine Township High School District 207, Des Plaines District 62, Oakton Community College, the Des Plaines Park District and Des Plaines Library District. The resolution also set a public hearing to take testimony Aug. 5.

Meanwhile, building a Metra train station on the North Central line at Oakton and Lee streets is a key part of the city's vision. That part of the plan is closer to becoming a reality. A study to determine the feasibility of a train station at the location is nearly complete and the results appear favorable, City Manager Mike Bartholomew said.

"We feel very strongly that they will approve this station," Bartholomew said.

The city will be on the hook to pay for the $10 million to $12 million station. Yet city leaders predict a train station could be a catalyst for future transit-oriented development, particularly high-density residential housing similar to that in the city's downtown. It also could improve the value of nearby homes.

According to the city, nearly 80 percent of the properties in the proposed TIF district are more than 35 years old and the area has lagged in annual growth rates three of the past five years.

"It has the potential to be a place that doesn't only look better but changes the complexion of transit-oriented design, and frankly, home values on the south side of town," Mayor Matt Bogusz said.

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