Friday, January 27, 2012

After Zoning Committee Denial, Sedgwick Counters

An excerpt from an email sent by Ald. Cappleman's office to the 46th Ward zoning committee members:

..."We summarized the main suggestions/concerns from your feedback for Sedgwick at the time that the Alderman informed them that the committee voted "no." He told them that he stands by the decision of the committee. Sedgwick responded by sending us the following proposed changes:

1. Eliminating the development on the east parcel of land and turning it over to the Park District or other public entity. Related traffic improvements would remain in the plan. 

2. Changing the Agatite facade by adding masonry elements to reflect the surrounding residential buildings

3. Changes to the loading dock. These would be: Greening the western wall, wrapping the windows around the southwestern corner from Montrose to the western wall, a canopy covering the loading dock and the addition of a gate.

Alderman Cappleman asked me to reach out to the committee to see if these changes might impact your decision to support or not support this project.

Just to be clear, this is not a vote on the project. This is only to gauge the committee's interest to bring it back to the group based on the developer's response to some of your suggestions. Please let me know if this information would lead you to reconsider your vote in anyway.  We do not need to waste the committee's time by reconvening on this project unless there is a substantial number of you that would like the opportunity to vote again based on the new information. I want to be clear that it is your decision as a group to determine if you would like another opportunity to review.

Please let me know as soon as you are able if you/your organization are wanting to reconsider and let me know if you are not wanting to reconsider as well so I know that I have heard from everyone. As always, please contact me if you have questions."


  1. Sedgwick has failed to address the most important objection from the committee (and wider community) - that the requested TIF subsidy is appropriate for this project.

    This is no surprise as their financier will not back the project without the $30 million! Clearly this project is a non-starter.

    As to the proposed changes:

    1. Transferring the east parcel to the Park District is the right and best thing to do.

    I believe, however, that this proposed change is intentionally vague, because it mentions nothing about providing the Park District with a cleared & cleaned parcel (i.e., Sedgwick would burden taxpayers with the cost of demolishing the building on this site).

    2. & 3. These are aesthetic considerations which are important but certainly not anything a developer would let get in the way of getting a project approved.

  2. 1. The TIF is there, any developer going in would ask for the TIF funds. The TIF argument should not be the basis for being for or against this project, in my view. What should be the determining factor is, would this help our neighborhood? I'd like a Mariano's, but I'd like not having an boarded up eyesore even more.

    2. You want Sedgwick to pay to clean up the east lot, and give it away, but you don't want them to use TIF finds, give me a break, they're not a charity.


    The chance of Sedgwick getting 30 million in TIF money or any number similar to that is slim. Not none, but slim. However, it's closer to none than slim.

    The way for Sedgwick to address this is by going for higher density to offset giving up the eastern parcel and the relative lack of TIF funds.

    Put together a denser development where they buy some neighboring parcels to mitigate the negative effects, deed the eastern parcel to the Park District, and limit the request for TIF funds to the $$ needed for the fieldhouse renovation and the low income housing "donation". Better yet get the city council to repeal the required "donation" for all developers.

    Most people aren't against a high density development there. Virtually everyone is against a massive use of TIF funds and there isn't any reasonable way to change that fact.

    Ultimately what Sedgwick wants is an opportunity to make a healthy profit. If they have the financial wherewithal to do this development it shouldn't much matter whether that profit comes from higher density or TIF funds.

    So endeth the lesson.

  4. Unknown - I agree with you completely reguarding the TIF.

    Donating the east parcel is sugnificant also. It also shows good faith effort to work with the neighborhood.

    Sedgewick has every right to resubmit this proposal. And, I hope the neighborhood groups work with them to improve the proposal (as some have done)and not just try to get rid of them no matter what (as some have done).

  5. I think someone mentioned in another thread, Sedwick's window of exclusive rights to develop the property is running out soon. So I would guess they are more willing to compromise now then ever before.

    I tip my hat to the 46th ward office for the open manner this whole process has been carried out in. I am sure we will know soon enough how the committee feels about these proposed changes.

  6. Unknown and Atlas,
    I agree that some TIF money should be included for cleaning up and giving away that eastern parcel piece, but it should be nowhere near 30 million for that. It would be hard to justify even 10 million for that.

    Also, you can't really calling it donating the land like Atlas said, when we are paying for it with the TIF. It would be crazy to think that 30 million dollars gets you a small park area. Which brings up another question. Does Sedgwick get a tax write off for donating tax payed for land? Doesn't seem like that should be the case if they are paying for what they are donating.

    I am with IP on this one that they shouldn't get 30 million, but rather a much smaller portion of that. I am all for the development, just not at the taxpayers expense.

  7. Sedgwick is really trying hard to suck up TIF money. All I can say about them and their counter proposed changes is "FUGETABOUTIT"
    About 500 neighbors that live right across the street, feel the same.

  8. I question whether any of the people on here actually understand what TIF is. Apparently, shouting that the developer shouldn't have access to TIF financing is enough to carry the debate.

    TIF is not free money, it is a recapture of taxes that would be paid based on the assessment of improvements to the land .

    If nothing goes in, then no taxes whatsoever are going to be generated on that site.

    Instead, the development goes in, and people move into Uptown and (a) take care of the blight that is currently in that corridor and (b) support businesses in the area (and get new businesses to move in because there are people to service.)

    Me thinks there are people who are ticked off that there is not more public housing in the development. I ask this question: on what basis does Uptown need MORE public housing? Why don't people like the Ald.'s idea to pay into the trust fund?

    I would vote yes, and pray that something gets built there and that we start bringing development into Uptown.

    Yes, I am a homeowner in Uptown, and proud of it.

  9. 4800 Winthrop, I don't think the opposition against this project is for more public housing, where are you getting that from?

    And your framing of the issue isn't accurate, as it assumes that the choice is between a full $30M TIF or no development at all. That assumption is very shaky, however convenient it is for your position.

  10. I respectfully disagree 4800...
    TIF is very much free money. It's the exact same thing as if I wanted to take a second mortgage to rehab my property and pay that for 24 years rather than property taxes.

    Just because the property isn't paying taxes today doesn't mean it shouldn't be. The sisters are not using the property for educational, religious (or any other)purposes. They're not even providing free parking any more.

  11. I smell something rotten on the 4800 block of Winthrop...

    Methinks thou doest protest too much.

    Since you are such an involved homeowner here in Uptown how come you never saw fit to post before or even create a blogger account?

    It's a rhetorical question.

    So your theory is that people are opposing this because they want more low income housing? Really? Do you think you can sell that tripe here? Perhaps you can make use of one of the mental hospitals nearby your alleged residence and seek some help or helpeth if thou preferest that term.

    There are many people here who don't understand TIF financing. There are also those that do.

    I be do be do.

    Yabba dabba do.

    That parcel can be developed without a massive amount of TIF financing. Now perhaps that means no gym or grocery go in. Oh well. Personally I find two TIF financed grocers within a few blocks enough. Then again what do I know. I'm just a taxpayer who apparently isn't as smart as Socks from Winthrop.

    Little or no TIF financing means the bad sisters of Maryville may have to settle for less money for the property. Oh well.

    Zone it appropriately. Allow a big dense development and the developers will flock to build it.

    There's a massive amount of pension fund money out there now financing larger apartment building developments and outright buying them from developers.

    TIF's were a good idea run amok for the benefit of the clouted.

    At some point someone has to stand up against TIF abuse. A line has to be drawn and defended. That line is here and now and the people of Uptown are the immoral equivalent of the Spartans at Thermopylae.

    Perhaps we will be overwhelmed by Rahm's/Xerxes clouted forces and the snowy owls shall pick at our bones.

    I wouldn't count on it though. Remember the battle cry of Demophilus of Thespia at Thermopylae:

    "Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" Then he took a Persian arrow to the chest.

    Now if you will excuse me I need to head to detox.

  12. Property taxes are not the only benefit of having a real thriving development as opposed to the nothing we have now, don't forget the sales tax and jobs. I really hope we get something great in that parcel.

  13. IP, I would hate to have a huge development without commercial development in it, that would stink and I would oppose it.

  14. The donation of the east parcel is conditionally a BIG game-changer. There would have to be a conversation among the Uptown-wide community about how to utilize it were it to happen.

    I would leave it up to the residents of Agatite to comment on the masonry changes.

    An enclosed dock would mitigate some of the issues.

    There is still a debate over all of that commercial where now there is none. But the fact is many residents want a store there, my personal view is we don't need it.

    I would put the odds closer to slim then none.

  15. Not to engage, but

    (a) the public housing argument has been raised on this page and addressed in the alterman's own Q&A document, so my comment is not spurious and I suspect there are some that are upset that the project does not aid enough lower income individuals

    (b) the nature of development in the United State in major cities is that TIF funds are used to aid in funding mass development particularly for blighted properties, I have been involved in significant disputes regarding TIF funding through the United States relating to large scale development. And no, I have never even heard of Sedwick before this deal.

    (c) I am unsure how people believe that a developer will magically come along without property tax capture. Its based on simple ROI and the natural risk associated with building the development. (I'm waiting for the comments on this one).

    (c) Bradley . . . your argumetn is wrong, that is nothing what TIF is like. TIF captures the increment in the increase of the property value and captures it for the devlop to reimburse very specific costs associated with the development. If the increment incerases beyond specified levels it diverts to its normal source and is not captured. It is nothing like a "second mortgage."
    Again, see my first point. Understanding TIF finaincing is the first step in making an arguemnt (and there are arguments that have some legitimacy, but none have been raised here, where there is a blighted property still on the parcel)


    to the Pirate,

    I do understand TIF financing, and my lack of blogger account is that I rarely see fit to comment on here, but all this disinformation is getting to me.


  16. By now, most people are resigned to the use of TIF$ for this site.

    The real problem seems to be Sedgwick.

    I have no problem with them resubmitting, but I am growing tired of seeing their name and, frankly, their dusty, clouted, playground antics.

    Bass didn't help. A Madigan flunky didnt help. A Cullerton flunky didn't help. What's next? A supportive letter from Obama's uncle?

    I appreciate Marty's spunk, but the guy can't take a hint.

  17. Actually the "affordable housing argument" 4800 Winthrop mentioned has gotten short shrift in the comments on this blog.

    In fact for the most part affordable housing advocates do not comment here, but they have commented elsewhere "offline".

  18. We can add a lie to the old joke regarding lies.

    1. The check is in the mail.

    2. (I can't say it here)

    3. We're from the government and we're here to help.

    4. No development is possible without TIF money.

    Again, I'm not completely against the use of some TIF money for this
    development. However, like Yo has suggested, Sedgwick's methods of getting this deal done remind me of dead alewives on a Chicago beach in da 70's.

    This community is not going to support 30 million in TIF money for this or likely any development. Dat's da fact, Jack.

    T I F may seem like three letters to many people, but to Uptown residents it's a four letter acronym. The acronym is preceded by the contraction "we're" and begins with the letter "F".

    It seems to me that Sedgwick is barking up the wrong money tree here in Uptown. Their only real choices now may be to walk away from the option to buy the property, flip the option to a better funded developer, or close on the property and hope that they can sell the property at a profit or develop it without 30 million in TIF moola.

    I've given them a roadmap of how to approach this with my comments, but do they listen? Hell no. They've approached this as if the 46th Ward were some lakefront version of an old machine ward. It ain't. You bring in clouted people and it just makes us more suspicious.

    I am a prophet in the desert of the internet. They seek profit. I offer wisdom and a slightly different path to profit.

    The end is nigh!

    By the way earlier tonight I was washing down my peyote sandwich with some Guinness and I had a vision. It showed a dense tower at the Maryville site extending west to include the Dearborn parking lot and it was all done without TIF money.

    Then the car horn roused me out of the street.......

  19. It's a simple truth, even stated by the developer in their filings with the city, that the development would be profitable without TIF funds.

    The private equity financier demands an ROI of at least 11%, however, and according to Sedgwick that will only happen with a $30 million TIF infusion. Otherwise, the ROI is only (*gasp*) 8%.

    This is a deal that does not need TIF funds in order to be successful. It is simply a question of degrees.

    As a private investor, the financier is perfectly within his rights as a businessman to say "these are the returns I require in order to make this appealing to me," however that does not obligate the city to give away scarce tax dollars. Especially to a project that has no need for subsidy in order to turn a reasonable profit.

  20. There are much less risky ways to invest for an 8.5% return for a firm like Bentell-Kennedy then a development such as this. I don't think 11% is out of line.

    I agree with Yo that most are resigned to TIF's being utilized in this project, it is time to leave WY behind. Oversight has been the biggest issue with TIF's and I see plenty of oversight happening here.


    The east parcel should not be developed or become a patch of grass.

    What is missing from the Uptown mix?

    We do not have a Arts or Cultural Center in Uptown. Yet we are proposing making Uptown a cultural destination.

    Think Hyde Park Art Center with a more musical programming.

    Think of improving the quality of life for ALL of Uptown residents.

    Renovating Uptown Theater is a big piece of the puzzle but not the only one. We need a cultural anchor, a cultural development plan or the UMD will be little more then a venue cluster.

    What I am trying to make is a nuanced argument to dream big and it is very difficult to do well or effectively, but here goes....

    How many readers have been to other popular music districts?

    Austin Texas.....Nashville.....New Orleans? They all three attract musicians, do we have a plan to attract musicians, or are we fixated on attracting visitors only?

    We live in Chicago which already has a vibrant and competitive music scene diffused throughout the city, so our challenge is unique, but the artists for the most part are near.

    Artists of all types are attracted to artists of all types. We need a plan to bring all kinds of arts and artists to Uptown.

    An increase in concert traffic alone won't improve the Uptown experience for the residents. Concerts occur between 7-10pm generally, the extreme great majority come, then go. Venues alone don't cut it.

    Is there a restaurant district outside the United Center or Allstate arena?

    A venue cluster in Uptown would be a great and convenient thing for the surrounding neighborhoods, it is like getting the milk without smelling the cow.

    We have already had concert traffic for many years in Uptown, what has it meant for the residents?

    An arts and cultural center would be an economic stimulus and is worth serious consideration. A cultural investment done correctly would pay BIG dividends.

    Can we attract visitors to Uptown before 7pm and not just to shop for needful things while also improving the quality of life for the old and young, rich and poor, and in between of Uptown?


    Here is a link to some community activists in NYC who dreamed big. The financial impact of the project they advocated exceeded their estimate by a couple hundred million dollars.

    We need an Arts and Cultural Development Committee! Fast!

  21. If your point about TIFs were true 4800, there wouldn't be $500 million accumulated for the mayor to give his friends, the schools, parks and city would have been using it for the operating budget. You're naivetee is cute. Real life doesn't work that way. I will grant you one point though... I don't know of many seconds with 24 year terms.

  22. 4800 Winthrop Block —
    In Sedgewick’s own TIF eligible costs report they listed land acquisition (18mil.) As being paid for with TIF money.

    So Sedgewick proposes to buy the land with our dime!

    The use of TIF funds has always been a huge scam. In this case it’s HUMONGOUS scam.
    The Maryville sister’s side:
    Walk away from the property, list it for more than it’s worth, allow it to become blighted and declare it a TIF.

    The Sedgewick side:
    Get over priced land for free.

    I think I’ll board up my place, pay a drunk to camp out and spray some graffiti for some extra blight – get it declared a TIF and put my place on the market for more than it’s worth.

    4800 Winthrop Block wanna buy? Hey common it’s free!!!

  23. Uptown Artist
    I love the idea of an Uptown Arts and Cultural Center.

  24. I urge Uptown Lady and anyone else who thinks an Uptown Arts and Cultural center is a good idea to visit upon a thread I started on EveryBlock.

    It is an idea that can get very easily lost in the debate about what is, what for, how much, and why a TIF debate.

    A conversation about an Uptown A & C Center is worth having at this point and time. The offer to donate the east parcel makes itso.

    If it were to ever come to fruition it should reflect the uniqueness and desires of the Uptown community and if you live here that is YOU.

    I don't want to take away from or dilute the TIF needs to happen on its own merit absolutely.

    Here is the link to follow along or kindly add your 2 cents.

  25. @Uptown Artist: I don't think you should try to separate your idea for an Uptown Arts & Cultural center from the TIF debate, because: 1) the use of TIF funds is not restricted to for-profit developments and 2) the use of TIF funds should be opened up to a broader process of community/economic development.

    I think you have a great example in the Hyde Park Art Center. But, I would also suggest that we not get saucer-eyed when looking at TIF $$$ to spur similar development in Uptown, because HPAC is an organization with a long history in its neighborhood, which grew organically. Simply throwing large amounts of money at an idea is not going to ensure a quality project, nor will it guarantee success.

    IMHO, TIF funds should be used at a micro-finance level to invest in organizations and small businesses which are based in the neighborhood and to finance the renovation and restoration of existing buildings and infrastructure.

    To see an example of what kind of community investment I'm referring to take a look at the Old Town Oakland (California) experience described on the Popuphood website:

  26. @ QBRSNT

    Your point is well taken.

    IMHO this "TIF debate" has hit the Ben Joravsky wall and has become a litany of wish lists in regards to TIF reform.

    There is never a guarantee of success in the arts, that is why it requires heart. For a guaranteed result we have WalMart and McDonalds as well as the status quo.

    We need more people who think like Daniel Burnham to step-up, I know your out there in Uptown because I have met you. We need less Joravsky-esque endless critique at the expense of examining other options or perspectives.

    Yes indeed if there is ANY hope for Uptown planting the seed of a Arts and Cultural Center it must be a conversation fully divorced from the left-over Wilson Yard TIF debate.

    It must be a conversation and not a "debate".

    We have the professionals and talent, we have the location, and in the case of the proposed Uptown Music District we have the motivation.

    It will take heart and soul, talent and skills, and we have that in spades here in Uptown.

    Why not form an Arts and Culture Development Committee for Uptown/46th Ward and see what happens. What do we have to lose.

    By the way...the head of the Illinois Arts Council has caught wind of this "saucer-eyed idea", chimed in and loves the idea.

    ".....make no small plans....."

    Daniel Burnham

  27. I apologize if I am over-commenting on this issue but there is much to discuss...

    The Clarendon Park Fieldhouse is a type of "cultural center" and we are proposing spending $6M in TIF funding to restore it.

    This has generated only positive response and to my knowledge NO complaints.

    The issue of spending TIF funds on cultural infrastructure has been decided in the court of public opinion with an overwhelming and resounding YES!

    So an Arts and Cultural Development Committee, if formed, should discuss resourcing TIF for an art center, but not be limited to that topic as their are other funding sources available as well.

    With that said the mere utterance of the acronym TIF will put the shorts of a small but vocal minority into a bunch. The rest of us are open to suggestions.

    The center does not have to be a singular organization but could begin operating as a consortium of smaller organizations sharing the space for starters.

  28. Jeffrey, keep on posting, I hope more people recognize that you have a workable and exciting idea.

    It seems there is much misunderstanding about TIF money. The way I see it, we as residents of Uptown, "borrow" the future tax money to invest in our community today. So TIF will payout dividends to all of us sooner than later.

    Of course, the necessary evil is that it will also increase ROI for some investor but that's why people like Jeffrey should be vocal about spending that TIF on projects that will have legacy. And diversifying it between various small organizations seems like another sound idea.

    Thank you for posting this.

  29. Jeffrey:

    I agree, a cultural center would be wonderful.

    But the way I understand TIFs work is that money becomes available because money can be borrowed against future tax revenues generated because (in the long run) property values increase and the property taxes tied to the value increases also.

    Because the TIF boundaries on this property are so narrowly drawn, the proposed cultural center will probably not generate property taxes and therefore cannot pay off a loan now or in the future.

    Now if the TIF was bigger or covered a broader area, There would be land in the TIF that future taxes could be available to pay the loan needed in the TIF to cover the cultural center proposal.

  30. @ Toto

    In my counter-point I would have to agree with you that a cultural center would not be a big tax generator, as the low-rise retail previously proposed would have been to an extent.

    However, if a vacant and dormant building brings down values and dampens the quality of life, so true must a vibrant and utilized cultural center enhance and revitalize the surrounding area. Much more then retail I would argue.

    There are many successful models to pick and choose from to find the right balance that fits our community, we are unique.

    The most costly hurdle is the land and space for a cultural center and we have a golden opportunity to have it donated.

    Beneath the veneer of neglect he Cuneo building does have aesthetic modernist value, it can be re-purposed in a creatively exciting way. Many talented architects are artists at heart and will work with us at a reduced rate or pro bono.

    That is what happened with Helmut Jahn in designing the Schiff building for Mercy Housing.

    There has been talk of a Gallery 37 model, involving local students throughout. At every community and CAPS meeting the subject of what to do to reach the youth comes up. This could be a powerful inspiration for the kids, the arts are more powerful than lousy gangs!

    We have grant writers with a passion for Uptown who will advise us, I can think of two off the top of my head. We have every skill-set needed at out disposal. I am just an under-employed artist but I know this can happen, we need to bring it together.

    Putting on my artist hat...

    I see a coffee shop restaurant on the ground level with a mission to provide job training to youth, maybe with a Cafe du Monde vibe to it, a small band playing.

    A band shell on the east side facing the field for community concerts.

    An engaging and vibrant northern terminus for a tourist on a lakefront bike ride.

    I see classes and workshops for all incomes and ages, galleries to have openings, readings, maybe a dance program to share our talents and tell our stories.

    I see senior programs in the daytime, after-school programs in the afternoon and family programs on the weekends.

    I see this creating along with a renovated fieldhouse a creative, intellectual, and athletic campus in Clarendon Park.

    With the property as a donation and the good-hearted, civic-minded and talented residents of Uptown willing to stand up we can find a financing solution for success.

    And success will attract more financing. It will lift the spirits and value of Uptown.

    On top of that I am convinced Alderman James is an art lover and would be supportive if we can come together as a community with a proposal.

    We need to form that committee and get the conversation started, we need our professionals to step up. And we all need to turn up our collective imaginations a notch...this is a golden opportunity.

  31. the debate will continue and it has reached the point that all i care about is avoiding developments like this.

  32. Toto,
    The TIF includes both the east and the west side of Clarendon. The west side will be the revenue generator. Instead of a developer (not Sedgwick) receiving 100% of the TIF and giving back 20% to the Park/Community it should be the other way around. Heck they’re getting a zoning variance and for that variance the community should get a major portion of the TIF back.

    I think Uptown Artist is talking about using the east parcel.

  33. Your correct Uptown Lady, I am only talking about the east parcel for the Arts and Cultural Center

    The west parcel is the one with the proposed 45 story tower, 600+ units, and roughly 100,00 sq.ft. of retail.

    To a lesser extent low-rise development on the north parcel (currently a surface parking lot) would also generate revenue.