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Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011 05:00 pm

MacArthur may be considered for TIF district

Master plan to be released Feb. 23

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Redevelopment planners suggest facade and landscape changes for businesses, including Baskin Robbins, along MacArthur Boulevard.
ILLUSTRATION COURTESY OF THE LAKOTA GROUP

The MacArthur Boulevard Business Association may start to see the fruits of its labor as soon as Feb. 23, when the final master plan is unveiled for development along the corridor from South Grand Avenue on the north end to the new interchange at Interstate 72 on the south end.

Former Ward 9 alderman and current deputy mayor Steven Dove told MBBA members who have worked for the changes to their business neighborhood that “we’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel.”

Dove briefly discussed Tax Increment Finance districts and opened the floor for discussion during a Feb. 10 meeting with the MBBA.

Tax Increment Financing tends to be a “dirty word” among the public because people don’t know what it means, Dove said. But the city will look at a TIF district as one among many solutions for MacArthur.

If implemented, a TIF District could lend a hand in bringing the blighted areas along MacArthur Boulevard back to life.

The Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission and The Lakota Group, a Chicago consulting firm, held three previous workshops and coordinated a steering committee of volunteers to oversee MacArthur development.

Dove, who stood in for Mayor Frank Edwards, says the decision on whether to implement a TIF district in the MacArthur Boulevard corridor all depends on how it will affect businesses.

“If we want to see change in this corridor…we’re going to have to do some negotiation,” Dove says.

Carolyn Oxtoby, a Springfield developer, says she is in favor of the proposed MacArthur TIF. She renovated five downtown buildings and used TIF to finance several. The financial option allowed her to have a 3 to 5 percent loan which she says is much lower interest than if a TIF were not used.

She says that TIF makes costs more affordable for individuals who renovate buildings.

“I encourage people to use it,” she says.

The Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission and The Lakota Group have studied the corridor that once was vibrant and inviting. Among the problems identified by The Lakota Group are parking lots without landscaping, deterioration of parkways, cluttered signage and a need for attractive streetscapes along the 3.5-mile corridor.

Nick Kalogeresis, vice president of The Lakota Group, was not at the meeting but told Illinois Times in a phone interview that one of the goals of The Lakota Group for MacArthur Boulevard is to “green it up” and return the business district to being a thriving area. The McArthur plan recommends changes such as additional space for restaurant vendors for outdoor dining, redevelopment of the vacant Esquire Theatre site, added town homes, and redevelopment at the site of the old Kmart building and former bowling alley on Outer Park Drive.

Kalogeresis says the study also surveyed areas two blocks east and west of MacArthur Boulevard, areas that include parts of the Village of Jerome and the city of Leland Grove, which may be affected by the revitalization of MacArthur Boulevard.

Dove left the floor open for discussion among members of the MBBA and others. Attendees urged the return of a city planner and more efficiency between city offices, as well as development changes for the boulevard.

Norm Sims, director of the Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission says, “We’re going over the final planning report documents now. The only piece that’s still out there is the implementation, which is what we’re working through now.”

Edwards, who could not attend the meeting, told Illinois Times in a phone interview that he’s willing to take a look at TIF as a financial option. He wants to see if MacArthur fits the TIF criteria and if the results will be positive for the city. He’s quick to say that it isn’t easy and wants to know if MacArthur Boulevard is even “TIF eligible.”

Contact Holly Dillemuth at hdillemuth@illinoistimes.com.

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