CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign City Council will consider Tuesday night extending the life of the downtown tax increment financing district for another 12 years.
Champaign Planning Director Bruce Knight said city officials still believe there is more work to be done to revive the downtown area, which has become a popular entertainment center with numerous bars and restaurants in recent years.
Last year saw the downtown's biggest success, the opening of the One Main building, which includes office space, condominiums and significant amounts of retail space.
"We think downtown hasn't reached its tipping point (to success) yet," said Knight. "It's doing well and we're seeing reinvestment, but we think we need to continue to do a few things to reinforce that success."
Knight said the city planning department is finishing up its update of the downtown plan and that extending the life of the tax district will be an important tool in implementing some of the plan's recommendations.
The city council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.
The downtown district was created in 1981 and the proposed extension would extend the life of the district through Dec. 31, 2017. The city's plan calls for using $7.67 million in tax district proceeds over the life of the district to invest in the downtown.
Those investments will include:
– $1 million during the next three years in redevelopment incentive grants. Those grants to downtown building owners helped encourage expansions and renovations of downtown buildings, including renovation of some upstairs apartments and bringing buildings up to code.
– Some $1.7 million in intersection improvements to make the downtown area more pedestrian-friendly. Those improvements will include sidewalk curb "bump outs" at intersections that shorten the distance pedestrians must walk through an intersection, and stop lights with countdown signals that tell pedestrians and drivers how long they have until a light will change.
– Another $3.5 million to pay for a downtown parking deck that will include other uses as well.
– Plus $1.47 million for completion of the downtown streetscape.
"We'd like to link downtown better to the surrounding neighborhoods and make downtown more pedestrian-friendly," Knight said.
In a tax increment financing district, the taxes that governments receive are frozen at the base year level when the district was created.
Any increases in property taxes that occur due to improvements go into a special city fund that can be used to pay for infrastructure improvements, or to provide incentives to developers. The city can also rebate some of the money back to the other taxing districts.
So that other taxing districts can share in some of downtown's growth in recent years, the city intends to, starting next year, begin rebating 30 percent of the 2004 increment to local taxing bodies.
That percentage will increase to 50 percent in 2007, 70 percent in 2008 and 100 percent of the 2004 increment in 2009 and thereafter.
The Champaign Unit 4 school district had asked the city to accelerate its rebates due to a cash crunch. But the city council almost certainly won't go along with that suggestion after the Champaign school board failed on Sept. 12 to provide an unqualified letter of support for a special tax district the city wants to create in the South Research Park area to accommodate University of Illinois expansion plans.
A letter of support is needed to get special legislation authorizing the tax district through the Illinois General Assembly.
Knight said there are currently no negotiations going on with the school district about the south campus tax district. He said the city council could amend the downtown tax district payment schedule to accelerate rebates if the school board were to provide an unqualified letter of support.