Joliet moving ahead with Silver Cross TIF study

The Joliet City Council has approved a study that could create another tax increment funding (TIF) district near the area around the former Silver Cross Hospital.

Silver Cross vacated the site on Eagle Street near Route 6 in 2012 and moved to a new location in New Lenox.

The city announced a plan earlier this year that will include the demolition of all of the structures on the site except for a 60,000 square foot specialty care pavilion with the aim of “encouraging development,” according to a city memo.

That same memo notes that since vacating the site in 2012, “development interest on the majority of the site has been elusive.”

The approval for the $31,000 study follows the creation in January of a new TIF district surrounding the St. Joseph Hospital on Madison St.

In an attempt to steer the redevelopment of the site, a commission was founded in 2008 to oversee the process. The Silver Cross Healthy Community Commission included 17 Joliet community leaders and administrators from the hospital according to a statement from Silver Cross marketing director Tracy Simons.

Since that time there has been little interest from developers to find a new use for the sprawling 35-acre campus. Parts of the site have been re-used to house the Veteran’s Administration facility, which occupies a 60,000 square foot section that will stay after the remaining buildings are demolished this month. In addition, Hope Manor, a veteran’s housing complex, and Aunt Martha’s, which provides youth services have also built on land near the site.

City Manager Martin Shanahan said that it was too early in the process to speculate about what new uses the site could be used for in the future. He said that the city is open to a range of possibilities for the site.

“It all depends on who comes forward,” said Shanahan.

Council member Terry Morris said that residents on the east side of the city would probably like to see some retail options be developed especially a grocery store or other retailer.

“Grocery, clothing stores, some things like that would be nice,” said Morris. “Most residents in the immediate area would like to see something like that on that site.”

The rules governing the creation of TIF districts require properties to meet certain conditions in order to be eligible, including land that is economically stagnant or blighted and would otherwise not attract private investment. Other factors for a TIF district include buildings with an average age of 35 years or more, areas that lack unified community planning, buildings that show signs of deterioration, vacant structures, and areas in a flood plain. Funds from the TIF can’t be used to build new property but can be used to improve existing structures including upgrades and infrastructure improvements as well as demolition.

Once a TIF is created, tax rates are frozen and remain constant within the district for as long as 23 years. During that time, any income from increases in property value that generate new tax revenue is placed in a TIF fund to be reinvested in improvements in the area.

Property tax revenue continues to be distributed to the supported taxing bodies. Taxes generated from the increased property values that are not spent on improvements would be distributed to the taxing bodies at the end of the TIF’s lifespan.

The study for the St. Joseph TIF in January showed that of the 110 parcels being considered for the TIF, 74% were deteriorating and about 96% not being up to current building code.

The area being considered for the Silver Cross TIF district would encompass 53 parcels some of which sit outside of the city limits and would have to be annexed in to the city if it is created.

The city also has two other TIFs including an active downtown district as well as a Cass St. TIF.

In recent months, the city has issued grants from its downtown TIF fund to help kick start redevelopment of the Barber Building on Chicago Street and the Stadium Club building on Jefferson Street. Both projects include a mix of retail and apartments, which the city has targeted as a needed amenity to attract millennial workers to live and work in Joliet.