City Services

  • How did city reckon $800M for Lincoln Yards TIF?

    4 December 2018

    (Updated on 12 December 2018)

    Recently, one of our Facebook followers responded to my article on the origin of Lincoln Yards and the associated tax-increment financing (TIF) district, writing:

    "What is missing from publicly disclosed documents are estimates for the amount tax revenue that this project can be expected to generate over the 23-year (more if it's extended) life of the TIF . . . How much in property taxes beyond the estimated $800M for proposed infrastructure improvements that would go into a discretionary (slush) fund under the control of the mayor?"

    City infrastructure spending
    Chicago Dept. of Planning & Development estimates,
    totaling $700M, of infrastructure spending in the
    Cortland/Chicago River TIF district.
    Source: city of Chicago's 11/14/18 public meeting.

    The one thing—and the only thing—we know about the estimated tax revenue from publicly disclosed documents is the amount: $800 million. This figure comes from a FAQ sheet distributed by the Chicago Dept. of Planning and Development at its Nov. 14, 2018 public meeting on the Cortland/Chicago River TIF district.

    I think the writer's larger implication is correct: The city has not provided any material to show on what it based that estimate.

    Presumably, planning department analysts looked at the potential 23-year life of the proposed TIF district and did the following.

    1. Estimate the number, size, density, and uses of all the buildings that might get built.
    2. Assign an equalized assessed value (EAV) of all the properties identified in #1, for each year of the TIF district's life. Sum them over all the years.
    3. Identify the EAV of all the properties present at the TIF district's inception. Multiply that by the number of years of the TIF district's life.
    4. To get the total tax increment accumulated by the district, subtract #3 from #4 and multiply by the tax rate.
    LY land use
    Sterling Bay's 11/29/18 update of the proposed Lincoln
    Yards building layout. Source: Sterling Bay.

    The city hasn't disclosed any of that. Planning department officials did, however, show how they'd spend up to $700 million of the estimated total TIF take (see "Key Public Infrastructure Needs" above).

    Some clues about the calculations appear in the TIF district's redevelopment agreement—a document that planning officials said at the Nov. 14 meeting they'd release "in three weeks," but that the city's Web site revealed on Dec. 12.

    Another wrinkle: The Lincoln Yards development will comprise an estimated two-fifths of the TIF district. The developer of Lincoln Yards, Sterling Bay, has not made publicly available a detailed list of the projected number, size, density, and uses of all the buildings in Lincoln Yards. Though an enterprising researcher could extrapolate some (or much) of it from the aerial renderings that Sterling Bay's presented at a Nov. 29 public meeting, no one has tried . . . yet.

  • Mr Bike: Mayoral candidates transportation challenge

    6 November 2018

    In an interview by Ben Joravsky with Dave Glowacz on WCPT-AM's Ben Joravsky Show, Mr Bike reveals how local planners have challenged mayoral candidates to adopt a bold Chicago transportation vision, and more.

  • Analysis: Chicago has $1.4 billion held in TIF accounts

    31 August 2018

    An analysis from the TIF Illumination Project found that the city of Chicago has about $1.44 billion held in accounts associated with the city's 145 tax-increment financing districts.

  • Mr Bike: Trains, planes, and cyclist pains

    8 May 2018

    In an interview by Ben Joravsky with Dave Glowacz on WCPT-AM's Ben Joravsky Show, Mr Bike talks about unpredicatable and unlawful biker behavior, and more.

  • Mr Bike: winter tips, and Emanuel's "cocktail train"

    26 December 2017

    In an interview by Ben Joravsky with Dave "Mr Bike" Glowacz on WCPT-AM's Ben Joravsky Show, Dave and Ben discuss Mayor Emanuel's plan for an O'Hare express "cocktail train," winter cycling tips, and more.

  • Mr Bike: Tips and politics around Chicago bicycling

    3 October 2017

    In an interview by Ben Joravsky with Dave Glowacz on WCPT-AM's Ben Joravsky Show, Mr Bike describes bicycling's inevitable link with gentrification.

  • Mr Bike: Transit assets bring biking boost

    15 August 2017

    In an interview by Ben Joravsky with Dave Glowacz on WCPT-AM's Ben Joravsky Show, Mr Bike describes how better transit could boost bicycling in Chicago

  • Do Chicago bike riders blindly support the mayor?

    12 April 2017

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the loyalty of Chicago bicycle riders to bike-friendly mayors.

  • Rich-guy Rahm comm

    18 January 2017

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky about a rare window into back-channel deals with the wealthy, provided by a release of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2016 private e-mail communication.

  • How to win the door prize in bike lanes: a crash course

    29 September 2016
    St Louis vs Chi bike lane
    St. Louis vs. Chicago bike lane: What's wrong with this picture?

    When Bicycling magazine named Chicago as 2016's most bicycle-friendly U.S. city, the news was soon followed by our town's fifth bicycling fatality this year.

    That got me thinking about the unfriendly side of Chi biking: the hundreds of bike crashes, whereby bikers gets hurt, that occur each year.

    Take, for example, my housemate's recent bicycle crash: She got doored in a Chicago bike lane. The resulting injury required knee surgery. What's more, it was her second dooring—and her second knee surgery. The first time, seven years ago, she injured the other knee.

    Years ago, when I started to teach traffic cycling, I taught my students to ride on the left side of bike lanes—to avoid what I and others began calling "the door zone." At the time, it seemed like teaching a child to use a kitchen knife: You had to learn it, because bike lanes—like big, sharp knives—were inherently dangerous. Why? Because the city often installed bike lanes just to the left of parked cars, so the right two-thirds of a bike lane put bikers on a collision course with opening car doors.

    Over the years, in my role as bicycling author and instructor, Chicago bikers told me countless "dooring" stories. One gal I met could not recall her dooring crash; she remembered biking carefully (or so she thought) down Halsted, and the next moment she was waking up in a hospital bed, her skull fractured. Not surprisingly, she said she couldn't bring herself to bicycle again.

    At some point, Chicago bike planners got the memo: The city began using a bike lane design that includes a striped buffer next to parked cars, showing bikers where not to ride. Unfortunately, many miles of "unbuffered" legacy lanes are still out there.

    I just got back from visiting St. Louis with my bicycle. To my wonder, most of the lanes I saw had a buffer in the door zone. What's more, these lanes looked old. Many of Chicago's buffered bike lanes, in contrast, look relatively new—reflecting the recent innovation that they are.

    While biking around in view of the Mississippi River and the Arch, I thought about these two Midwestern cities: St. Louis, with its unheralded but cannily safe, buffered bike lanes; and Chicago, with its shiny, new Bicycling magazine award.

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel is surely proud of getting the "most bike-friendly city" prize. But no one in the Emanuel administration (or at Bicycling magazine, for that matter) is talking about the fact that many Chicago bike lanes are a set-up: The lanes lure credulous cyclists with the appearance of safety, while they actually place bikers in danger that's both predictable and ongoing.

    The mayor and his factotums like to brag about how many miles of new, "protected" bike lanes the city is paying for each year. Why not put that effort on hold—and, instead, spend the money on fixing Chicago's legacy lanes, all of which are crashes waiting to happen?

    It won't win Rahm any awards—which maybe is why it won't happen any time soon.

     

  • Divvy and Fleet suck from the TIF teat

    16 September 2016

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on why the Fleet Dept.'s South Side move works better for taxpayers than the McCormick Marriott deal, and more.

  • Development commission approves Lathrop tax financing

    13 July 2016

    The city's Community Development Commission unanimously approved tax-increment financing for the redevelopment of the Lathrop Homes public housing complex.

  • Lathrop TIF review slightly out of joint

    3 June 2016

    A surprise meeting of a joint review board approved a tax-increment financing district for the redevelopment of Lathrop Homes.

  • CHA releases Lathrop Homes tenant selection plan

    16 May 2016

    The Chicago Housing Authority has released a draft of the tenant selection plan for the redeveloped Lathrop Homes on the North Side.

  • Moreno: first-ever TIF constraints at Lathrop redevelopment

    6 April 2016

    First Ward Alderman Joe Moreno has announced an unprecedented limitation on a tax-increment financing district connected to the redevelopment of Lathrop Homes.

  • CHA leaders flee public meeting, avoid questions on replacement housing

    4 February 2016

    Top officials of the Chicago Housing Authority fled a public meeting on the redevelopment of Lathrop Homes on the North Side.

  • Police spying on protesters uncovered—sort of

    25 March 2015

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on what citizens can do when government won't release public records, and more.

  • Emanuel's privatization: a clean sweep?

    2 October 2014

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky, speculating on which city services Mayor Emanuel wouldn't privatize, and more.

  • New ward boundaries used for March 2014 primary

    13 March 2014

    In the 2014 primary elections, Chicagoans will vote in the new ward boundaries enacted in January of 2012—though it might surprise some.

  • A look at the mayor's budget proposal

    6 November 2013

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the city's budget "process," excerpted from an interview originally published on November 10, 2011.

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