With a Madison Street TIF, with ink still wet, trustees in River Forest Monday made a million-dollar investment of tax dollars in a key piece of property. For a village typically cautious in assembling parcels for development this was a bold move, aimed at speeding potential private development dollars.

River Forest trustees voted 5-0 to buy the longtime Lutheran Child and Family Services building at 7610 Madison St. The non-profit had announced in August that it wanted out of the building as state budget woes had shifted its strategic plan away from a large staff in need of a large office complex. Departing River Forest is just one piece of the respected social service agency’s remaking.

The Madison Street TIF was created recently with redevelopment of just such properties in mind. The 1950s-era, one-story office building is an obsolete dino that will never be retrofitted to a new and more property-tax-generous model. We’d also suggest that the 1990s strip malls on Madison Street are about as done for as the office properties.

Kudos to the village government for its prompt action and intervention. The worry though is that, in lending the million bucks from the village’s general fund to the TIF, the repayment cycle may be long. TIFs are funded by increases in property values and tax generation within the geography of the district. By pre-loading the TIF, the village needs new development to happen sooner than later. Being open to something as simple as high-end townhomes, which have proven popular along Madison, might provide a reasonably quick and profitable return on the village’s investment.

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