IRVING PARK — The North River Commission, a special service area in Irving Park and Albany Park, wants to expand where it collects taxes and can offer services — and it’s looking for neighbor input on where to go.
The city has 53 taxing districts called special service areas, or SSAs, that impose a tax on properties within their set boundaries — typically business corridors — on top of other taxes.
Each special service area has a provider that manages how the tax revenue is spent within its boundaries for services like snow and litter removal, business development and landscaping.
North River Commission manages Special Service Area #60, which encompasses:
- Kedzie Avenue between Ainslie Street to Irving Park Road.
- Lawrence Avenue between the Chicago River and Kimball Avenue.
- Kimball Avenue between Lawrence and Leland avenues.
- Montrose Avenue between the Chicago River and Central Park Avenue.
- Irving Park Road between Sacramento and Spaulding avenues.
The special service area’s boundaries have been in place for about nine years, said Scott Berman, the commission’s vice president of economic development. And for years the commission has fielded requests from business owners, property owners and residents to expand along the area’s commercial corridors.
Now, they’re proposing an expansion in the area — but they’re just at the beginning of a months-long process to make it happen.
“This really expands what is naturally known as the commercial areas of Albany and Irving Park,” Berman said.
If approved, the proposal would expand the special service area boundaries by about 40 percent along:
- Lawrence Avenue between Kimball and Pulaski avenues.
- Irving Park Road between Spaulding and Central Park avenues and between Sacramento and California avenues.
If the expansion happens, the special service area tax levy — .3696 percent — would be applied to property in the new parts of the area, and the commission would be allowed to offer its services to those properties, Berman said.
“We calculate that to about $360 per storefront … . It’s different, of course, if the storefront is in a multi-unit building or a single storefront building,” Berman said. “The $360 is a working number that we use in Albany Park and Irving Park in our SSA to determine what our taxes are going to be and how we’re not going to overtax each other.”
To move forward, the commission must present the city with the signatures of at least 10 percent of property owners within the proposed expansion area saying they’re in support of it. The signatures are due by June 12.
“We have these meetings, and we’ve hired a consultant [SB Friedman Development Advisors] to help us find out who the property owners are and how to contact them,” Berman said.
After that, by Aug. 2, the commission must present the city with signatures from at least 20 percent of the property owners in the new area supporting the expansion. Next, the city will review the proposal before City Council votes on the expansion request by December.
If City Council gives the expansion the OK, services in the new areas would begin by January 2022, Berman said.
At least 33 people — including Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) and staff from Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez’s (33rd) office — attended a Wednesday night meeting hosted by the commission about the proposal.
“Expanding this SSA is really an opportunity for us to expand the services and offerings that our commercial corridors can get in our corner of the Northwest Side of Chicago,” Rosa said. “I’m really looking forward to this conversation. But at the end of the day, it’s going to be up to the community to decide if this is what we want to do.”
The majority of neighbors who attended were in favor of the expansion.
Daniella Cornue, owner of Le Village at 3146 W. Irving Park Road, credited the services provided by the special service area with helping her business survive since it opened in November 2019.
Cornue’s business is near the western edge of the current special service area’s boundary on Irving Park Road. If the expansion is approved, it would make the commercial corridor west of Le Village more attractive to foot traffic and new businesses, she said.
“Instead of stopping near Elston, I think you should expand all the way to Pulaski,” said
Rev. Mark Johnson, Tapestry Fellowship at Independence Park’s executive director, suggested the expansion should go even further west on Irving Park Road to Pulaski Road.
Johnson’s church is at 3824 W. Irving Park Road and he’s lived in the 33rd Ward since 1984. He said Irving Park Road is one of the city’s most traveled roads, but for decades the commercial corridor west of the current special service area boundary and east of the expressway has been divided between three wards — the 33rd, 35th and 45th — and hasn’t had a community organization able to unify and manage it.
“We’ve lived a long time waiting for something to happen to Irving Park,” Johnson said.
A second meeting on the proposal is scheduled for noon May 18. To register for it, go to bit.ly/NRCEventbrite.
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