Commercial property taxing district could be in store for Mag Mile

Landlords in under-performing tourism district could choose to tax themselves

Pritzker Approves Business Improvement District for Mag Mile
The Magnificent Mile Association’s Kimberly Bares and Gov. J.B. Pritzker (International Downtown Association, Getty)

The Magnificent Mile is not so much these days, with empty storefronts threatening a change in status that has everyone from Illinois’ governor to the world’s biggest architecture firm offering help.

Governor J.B. Pritzker recently got the ball rolling by signing off on legislation that would allow the formation of a business improvement district, known as a BID, for the famous thoroughfare of retail and commercial properties on North Michigan Avenue, Crain’s reported.

The Magnificent Mile Business Improvement District would allow landlords to impose a tax on themselves to fund improvements such as private-public safety and sanitation services in the area. Landlords would vote on the formation of the BID, and only they would pay the associated tax. Residential properties would be exempt.

BIDs are similar in some ways to the many special service areas, or SSAs, including one that operates in the Magnificent Mile area but is set to expire at the end of the year. BIDs differ, however, in providing the landlords who fund them direct control over budgets and planning.

Organizers of the Magnificent Mile BID expect it to take shape over the next year or so, but it cannot go into operation until 2026 under state law.

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“Our plan is to renew the current SSA for up to two years, while we create the district plan and engage the community and property owners in the creation of a business improvement district,” Magnificent Mile Association CEO Kimberly Bares told the outlet. 

The formation of a BID could shape up alongside other efforts to connect the Magnificent Mile with the lakefront, a notion recently promoted in a study by Gensler, the world’s largest architecture firm. 

Gensler’s recent Mag Mile study, commissioned by local real estate investors and brokers Bob Wislow and Camille Julmy of Parkside Realty, calls for trimming two lanes of vehicle traffic on North Michigan Avenue to create room for pedestrians, in hopes of drawing enough foot traffic to cut down on the record 30 percent vacancy rates that plague the row.

“Michigan Avenue may not be the same again, and we may have to think about it as a different place,” said Benjy Ward, a design principal at Gensler. 

The Gensler study will be showcased at the Chicago Architecture Center as a part of an exhibit timed to coincide with Lollapalooza, the Chicago Air & Water Show and the Democratic National Convention.

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