WEST LOOP — After facing pushback from residents, a West Loop community group that aims to turn parts of Fulton Market into a Special Service Area (SSA) District is putting a proposed tax levy plan on ice for now.
On Monday, leaders of the West Loop Community Organization, a city delegate agency which aims to manage the proposed district, said they will delay applying for the SSA for a year as they work to gather more input from neighborhood stakeholders. In the meantime, the group will create a new advisory committee to “capture even more input from stakeholders representative of the Fulton Market’s diverse constituency,” said executive director Carla Agostinelli.
The new advisory committee will include some of the members of the group’s original SSA advisory committee. The West Loop Committee Organization will also seek new members, including businesses and property holders that fall within the proposed boundaries, Agostinelli said.
Applications to join the advisory committee will be available on the organization website starting Aug. 1, she said.
The proposed SSA would be bound by Hubbard Street, Halsted Street, Ogden Avenue and include both sides of Randolph. Under a revised proposal, the district would no longer include Union Park.
In the next year, Agostinelli said the group will host budget-focused public meetings and needs assessment workshops to identify infrastructure and other enhanced city services that the area will need after the Kinzie Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District expires in 2022.
In the spring, the West Loop Community Organization hosted two meetings introduce the proposed tax levy, sparking concerns about the makeup of the advisory committee. Following the meeting, the proposed boundaries were altered to “alleviate the burden on residential property owners,” Agostinelli previously told Block Club.
Agostinelli said the SSA would be an “economic development tool to bring resolutions” to safety, trash and infrastructure concerns in the booming West Loop.
During the meetings, the organization presented a draft proposal to create the SSA. As part of the proposal, the organization outlined potential uses for the funds such as addressing safety concerns through surveillance cameras, adding lights along Lake Street, making improvements to the public way and providing extra snow removal services.
“After many years of watching the rapid growth in the community, [and] understanding the strains the city is under in providing additional resources…. it became evident that an SSA was the way to go,” Agostinelli said at the time.
The 19-member advisory committee — consisting mostly of developers and real estate companies — includes representatives from Sterling Bay, Related Midwest, Shapack Partners, Tucker Development, Ascot Realty Group and SVN International.
Throughout the heated meetings, residents criticized the makeup of the advisory committee, saying it wasn’t representative of the needs or visions of residential property owners, which would make up a plurality of the property owners in the proposed district.
When residents asked how the advisory committee was selected, Scott Masel, who sits on the Fulton Market SSA advisory committee and the West Loop Community Organization Board of Directors, said developers with “deep pockets” are often asked to pay for neighborhood improvements so they were brought into the conversation early on.
Mark Roschen, assistant commissioner with the city’s Department of Planning and Development, said that while an advisory committee is used to steer the initial conversations to set up a Special Service Area, that committee would be disbanded if the SSA was approved and a body of seven volunteer commissioners would be appointed by the mayor from a pool of applicants to make decisions on how money collected by the tax levy would be used in the district.
Agostinelli said the new advisory committee would be reflective of the diverse property owners within the district.
The organization plans to submit the application next year. Under city ordinance, the West Loop Community Organization will need to garner support from 20 percent of property holders in the proposed district for the district to be approved.
If approved, the SSA would kick into effect once the Kinzie TIF District expires in 2022, Agostinelli said.
There are currently 53 Special Service Areas across Chicago.
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