In a public forum on Thursday night, Morton Grove residents leaned toward TIF (tax increment finance) districting to improve business on Dempster Street. Read more on the meeting here.
The plan would be to redistribute property taxes to a designated area that the village believes is incapable of luring private investment. The reallocation of taxes is enabled by freezing other taxing bodies' shares upon TIF creation, said Community and Economic Development Director John Said.
Said, who worked on local planning for Elmhurst before taking his current job in Morton Grove, described a TIF district as a "strategy for positive change" that has been widely successful in other village zones, including along Waukegan Road and between Lehigh and Ferris avenues, where an expanded Pequod's restaurant is planned. You can read about it here.
"I equate it to an investment into retirement," Said said. "We invest in it and we pay it off and we reap the benefits from it."
Reactions from the audience
Most workshop participants agreed that TIF taxing would be the appropriate route, too. Economic development chairman David Lewis, who acted as one of four meeting moderators, told Said at the session's conclusion that his attendee group had no negative comments about TIF districting.
"Our group was unanimous," Lewis said. "They said the TIF was the most beneficial, the most lucrative, at this point."
But beyond that consensus, residents offered varying views of how to generally improve Dempster Street. They were asked to address four discussion questions in groups, including an open-ended inquiry about the corridor's future.
Some speakers, including Village Trustee Shel Marcus advocated a complete overhaul of the street's commercial image.
"You have to brand it, and you have to come up with an idea to do it," he said, adding that such an ambitious goal cannot be achieved with "just a parking lot."
Village Trustee Dan DiMaria concurred that carefully crafting the Dempster stretch into an attractive destination would be ideal.
"You make it an attraction," he said. "They'll come."