Hyperlocal taxing district pitched to revamp the Magnificent Mile

Could generate millions in revenue through Business Improvement Districts

Owners Could Choose Hyperlocal Property Tax to Revamp Mag Mile
Chicago’s Magnificent Mile and Mag Mile Association CEO Kimberly Bares (Getty, LinkedIn)

The Magnificent Mile, Chicago’s once-vibrant shopping strip that’s been plagued by retail vacancies and crime in recent years, could get a major facelift with help from the Illinois General Assembly. 

Proposed legislation, spearheaded by Chicago Democrats Rep. Kam Buckner and state Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, would allow for the creation of Business Improvement Districts across Illinois, Crain’s reported.

These BIDs would generate millions in revenue by imposing a hyperlocal assessment on property tax bills within specified commercial corridors. The tax would fund security, infrastructure and street-level improvements. 

Chicago already has 56 Special Service Areas, including one along Michigan Avenue that’s set to expire in 2024, BIDs offer more flexibility in revenue collection and spending. They are locally controlled through elected boards.

A BID is needed for the Mag Mile, even though it already has a Special Service Area, because Michigan Avenue is one of the five-largest avenues in the country, said Kimberly Bares, CEO of the Magnificent Mile Association.

“The amount of resources that we have for our district is woefully small,” Bares told the outlet. “Michigan Avenue and this district are assets that we need to invest in, and having a business improvement district is a critical piece of us being able to realize the vision that we have for reimagining Michigan Avenue and the heart of Chicago.”

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Alderman Brian Hopkins and Alderman Brendan Reilly, whose wards include the Magnificent Mile, support the legislation. 

The proposed legislation has broad support, including from Mayor Brandon Johnson’s office.  Negotiations continue among stakeholders regarding structure and governance for BIDs. Property owners and business owners have differing opinions over board representation and control of funds.

Rep. Buckner is optimistic that thoughtful legislation can be crafted to foster commercial corridors like the Magnificent Mile. 

—Quinn Donoghue

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