Well, a major development on the site of the Colt building parking lot isn't going to build itself. It's going to take sewers and sidewalks and all the various accoutrements that a retail and housing developer is going to need before they put up their millions for construction.
That's why, in a situation filled with irony, Oak Park's two school districts last week expressed openness to reopening the zombie downtown TIF. That would be the Tax Increment Financing District, the fate of which had seemingly been legally sealed a year ago as a result of a lengthy and expensive lawsuit brought against village government and the District 97 elementary schools by the OPRF high school board.
But common sense dictates that a government-owned surface parking lot is never going to return property tax dollars to school districts and other government entities. So it is in their interests to consider a TIF carve-out that would allow the village to siphon off increased property taxes on the site to fund infrastructure improvements.
Now remember, it's still early. There is no chosen developer, the only proposed plan on the table is sketchy at best. There are no timetables or financials. But to get to that forward point, village government needs to know it has a possible funding source for infrastructure.
Responding to a joint letter dually signed by the outgoing and incoming village presidents on the single day they split that office, the two school boards expressed willingness to consider a proposal. One could bet that they will seek a simpler and more transparent pact this time out, as they should.
Trouble is, this development deal is still some time out and even this zombie TIF is severely time-limited. That's the hand that the down economy and the years spent in a contentious lawsuit have dealt. It is in everyone's interest to make the best of this.
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