Thursday, November 2, 2023

It's November. What's Happening with the Clark-Montrose TIF?


Way back in the last century (1999), civic leaders created a TIF district covering the length of Clark between Montrose and Foster

The Clark-Montrose TIF is set to expire in December 2023, after which business and property taxes from within the district will go to the City's general fund rather than be held for use in the specific district.

EDIT: After we went to press today, someone changed the TIF expiration on the City website to 2035. Before we published the story the expiration read "2023" and the linked report below still has the old 2023 date:  

We are unaware of when or how the TIF was extended and can find no ordinance to extend the TIF expiration and no communication from Alderwoman Clay's office regarding the change. [Ed. Note: A reader writes "the Clark Street TIF was extended to 2035 by City Council vote on November 1st. It apparently passed the Finance Committee the day before. There was no public notice I could find regarding the TIF extension."]

If we are reading the reports correctly, there are nearly $14 million dollars in the Clark Montrose TIF "bank" that are sitting unused with the expiration around the corner

With two months left on the clock, it's worth asking whether the Clark-Montrose TIF money is going to be used and more importantly, where is that money going to go?

Here at UU Headquarters we have been skeptics of TIFs since our team started this project in 2007. TIFs have a long history of fraud and abuse by public officials and friends who benefit from "access" to those funds. While TIFs can be used for good, it's probably a good thing that this TIF is set to expire. But there is a real opportunity here to use the $14 million dollars for the greater good of residents of Uptown. 

We saw the Clark-Montrose TIF money being used to benefit the neighborhood a year ago when funds were used for the new Courtenay playlot. There was an AIA award winning two year long study of the TIF district that resulted in a plan for the corridor, but nothing has come of the "Clark Street Crossroads" project so far. 

So dear readers, what do you think? As a reminder, the TIF money needs to be spent on capital improvements rather than things like social services

What should the $14 million in Clark-Montrose TIF be used for? 


  1. The problem is this TIF must meet all of its expenditures by the end of this year, and there's a long process to get approval for a TIF project.

    For instance, I learned about a TIF surplus for the combined Wilson Yards TIF and the Lawrence/Broadway TIF that totaled $30M in April 2022. Prior to that, I was told there was very little money, and I still remember when I was first told of the $30M surplus that I had to ask a couple of times to make sure I was hearing the amount correctly. That high amount occurred due to both TIFs doing very well and they contributed much more tax revenue than what had previously been anticipated (all the development helped make that happen). The problem was getting requests out and making sure all the TIF guidelines were met. I wanted a brand new Bezazian Library built by the Lawrence L Station, but construction couldn't start until after CTA completed its construction, which was too late. We wanted to use funds to build a drop-in center for people experiencing homelessness, but couldn't find available property. I was working with a large team of people from Uptown United, the Dept. of Planing and Development, the Dept. of Housing, CPS, CDOT, nonprofits, and the Mayor's Office that had us scrambling for ways to spend this money but the roadblocks kept coming up. These 2 TIFs end at the end of 2025, and the only way we can use those funds is to extend the TIFs, which is very controversial.

    Given the extremely tight deadline, I was told the Clark/Montrose TIF would also have to be extended in order to use the remaining amount.

    I fully get the controversy about TIFs. They do well in areas that show great economic promise, which is why they did extraordinarily well in Uptown. They don't do well in areas of high poverty where property tax revenue is not increasing. However, the positive side of TIFs is that while this money is spent on infrastructure projects, it lowers the competition for federal funds in areas where there are no TIFs.

  2. Here's a crazy idea. Why not just give the unused money back? Lower property taxes.

  3. Compared to the Wilson Yard Tif, this is pocket change. The real scandle that people should be up in arms about is the Wilson Yard TIF, currently at 140 million and counting. That's 140 million the schools and city services will not ever see. And our current dear leader, "Let's Go Full in on Useless Platitudes and whine every chance we get about no State and Federal support Johnson" has indicated he's looking at using TIF funds to fill a current budget hole. He and Angela should be forced to write on the blackboard 500 times: I will not use TIF funds to rob Peter and pay Paul (defund schools to build low income public housing). Our childrens lives matter". I pay 4K a year into the Wilson Yard TIF, or as I like to call it the "Helen Shiller Socialist Slush fund for public housing". In what Universe is it OK to defund schools to build low income housing?

  4. I love you, Paul Tattoo Factory.