Chicago OKs study for contentious TIF district to fund Red Line extension

Feasibility study approved for TIF district, despite opposition

Aldermen Pat Dowell and Anthony Beale (Twitter, 9th Ward Alderman Anthony A. Beale, CTA, Getty Images)
Aldermen Pat Dowell and Anthony Beale (Twitter, 9th Ward Alderman Anthony A. Beale, CTA, Getty Images)

Chicago approved a feasibility study for a special tax district that’s key to helping fund a five-mile, $3.6 billion extension of the Red Line, among the city’s busiest, despite opposition from politicians who say it sets a bad precedent.

The Community Development Commission, which had been expected to stall the decision, voted on Tuesday to proceed with planning for a Tax Increment District, which would freeze tax collections within its boundaries, Crain’s reported. As much as $950 million of higher property taxes – the increment – would help finance the line’s extension.

Multiple people at the meeting, including two aldermen, were less than receptive to the plans. Alderman Pat Dowell, whose Third Ward includes parts of the South Loop, Bronzeville and Downtown, said it wouldn’t improve access to areas that would help fund the work, the outlet reported. Alderman Anthony Beale, whose Ninth Ward on the Far South Side stands to benefit from the extension, said the TIF district had never been considered and would set a poor precedent.

“Sometimes I do understand the city has to put some skin in the game,” Beale told the publication. “But this is more than some skin. This is an arm and a leg.”

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The district would help finance an extension of the 26-mile Red Line to 130th Street and add four new stations past the terminus at 95th Street. It would span about eight blocks, starting at Madison Street in the Loop and running south to Pershing Road, bringing property tax funds into the Far South Side from areas in and around Downtown.

“I have strong misgivings about the creation of a Transit TIF that will take my constituents’ property tax obligations and apply them miles away,” Dowell said.

The commissioners agreed to schedule a public hearing before it votes on the tax increment financing district itself. The plan would still need to go before the City Council for final approval.

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