Changes to popular tax incentive program could hurt CRE development, critics say

Comcast's service center in south suburban Homewood
Comcast's service center in south suburban Homewood

Commercial property owners who take advantage of a popular county tax incentive program that lowers their assessments will now have to pay their workers a higher wage.

The Cook County Board recently made changes to the incentive program, requiring anyone taking part to pay Illinois’ prevailing wage to construction workers. That will mean higher wages for the same work.

Opponents say the higher wages will take away from the overall economic benefits, and potentially drive future development away.

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The Cook County program assesses commercial properties at 25 percent of fair market value, but the incentive program lowers the assessments for 12 years for certain zoning classifications, according to Bisnow, which reported on the changes.

Property owners awarded the incentive see their properties assessed at 10 percent of fair market value for 10 years, 15 percent for the 11th year and 20 percent for the 12 year.

The prevailing wage is typically higher than nonunion and union wage rates alike, according to experts who worried the added cost could drive developers to look outside of Cook County. The new changes also requires property owners to participate in the state Department of Labor’s apprenticeship program.

Podolsky Circle CORFAC International Managing Principal Alissa Adler told Bisnow the changes could particularly hurt the south suburbs in Cook County, who have used the incentives extensively and who are competing for projects with Will County, Indiana and others. [Bisnow] — John O’Brien