Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards wouldn’t have qualified for TIF funding using latest property assessments: report

A new report calls into question whether the Lincoln Yards site meets the legal standard of a “blighted” property

TRD CHICAGO /
Aug.August 26, 2019 12:00 PM
Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards site just barely meets minimum legal requirement of a “blighted” parcel, a new report shows (Credit: Lincoln Yards, iStock)

Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards site just barely meets minimum legal requirement of a “blighted” parcel, a new report shows (Credit: Lincoln Yards, iStock)

Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards megaproject is moving forward thanks in part to a $1.3 billion tax subsidy approved in the 11th hour of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration.

But a new report shows that the megadevelopment’s site barely met the minimum legal requirement to obtain the subsidy — and certainly wouldn’t have qualified if the City Council vote was put off any longer.

Less than six weeks after the Council’s April vote to approve a tax increment financing district for Lincoln Yards, new property assessments were completed that showed the development site’s rising property values, according to the Chicago Tribune. The results, if completed before the vote, would have made Lincoln Yards ineligible for a TIF package.

At issue is the state-mandated requirements for a local government to create a TIF district. A property must meet at least five of 13 different criteria seeking to prove the site’s status as “blighted.” Lincoln Yards only met five of those standards, and the last one — which concerns property values — just met the legal standard, according to the Tribune.

A report showed that, in three of the last five years, Lincoln Yards’ property values were declining or growing at a rate slower than the average for the city. That allowed the development to qualify for TIF assistance, but only because years 2013-2017 were reviewed.

If the 2018 values — finalized less than two months after Lincoln Yards’ approval — were used, the development wouldn’t qualify for TIF, according to the report.

The findings come as a lawsuit is seeking to challenge the validity of the Lincoln Yards TIF. Sterling Bay has started work on the megadevelopments, unveiling a new soccer field and green space this summer. [Chicago Tribune] — Joe Ward


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