PORTAGE PARK — Another Northwest Side chamber of commerce could soon take over operations after a Six Corners organization was booted as the area’s city services provider in October.
The City Council’s Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development meeting approved an ordinance Tuesday recommending the Belmont-Central Chamber of Commerce as the interim provider for the Special Service Area 28, which manages how Portage Park’s main shopping district spends tax dollars.
The special service area imposes a tax on property owners roughly from the Metra tracks to North Lavergne Avenue and between Byron Street and Warner Avenue. Funding helps neighborhood groups provide support to businesses, host events, add holiday decorations and manage snow removal and trash pickup in the corridor, among other things.
The shift would allow the Belmont-Central group to carry out contracts for those services, said Peter Strazzabosco, spokesman for the city’s Department of Planning and Development. The City Council could vote on the ordinance as soon as next week.
The Six Corners Chamber of Commerce was ousted from its role as the SSA provider for the shopping district in October after mismanagement allegations less than two years after it was appointed to the position.
Chamber leaders later accused the city of terminating its funding for political reasons. City planning officials, who supervise the city’s tax provider agreements with neighborhood groups, have said chamber officials violated the group’s contract by allowing an unauthorized person to manage some of the work.
The city’s planning arm tapped the Belmont-Central Chamber of Commerce after Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) met with chamber leaders last month, the group’s executive director Reid Mackin told Block Club.
“The city was forced to find … a neutral party that is divorced from the politics,” Mackin said. “We have been separated from all that so the city recommended to Gardiner to speak to the nearest SSAs — the Edgebrook-Sauganash [chamber] and then to us.”
The Belmont-Central group also is in Portage Park about 2 miles away from Six Corners. Mackin has led the chamber for 12 years, he said.
The organization is unique in that it operates the city’s only free parking garage at 3140 N. Central Ave. for customers of neighborhood businesses, Mackin said.
Taking over the Six Corners area in addition to Belmont-Central would be a big lift for Mackin’s organization, but he hopes to be able to use contracts already in place for services like snow removal, he said.
“That’s a positive thing because it could snow any day now, but it does seem like we have found a willing contractor,” Mackin said.
The chamber also plans to add holiday lights to Six Corners, as has been done in past years, Mackin said.
Gardiner supports the ordinance and the interim assignment, said Mary O’Connor, deputy commissioner of the city’s planning department. Gardiner’s office did not reply to requests for comment.
The Belmont-Central Chamber of Commerce “has successfully managed the SSA #2 for over 30 years and is one of the closest SSAs to Six Corners,” O’Connor said.
Should the ordinance pass, the Belmont-Central chamber will oversee the Six Corners area until planning officials choose a permanent provider through a request for proposals process next year.
City officials hope the process will be complete in February so an ordinance to approve the new provider can be introduced in March and passed by City Council the same month, O’Connor said.
Leaders of the Six Corners Association, which was the area’s provider until 2020, and the Six Corners Chamber of Commerce have said they intend to apply.
Asked if the chamber would consider applying to be the permanent 2023 provider for the Six Corners area, Mackin said his group has not ruled it out.
“It’s not out of the realm of possibilities,” Mackin said. “Being an interim is almost like a test run. I am not looking to play politics… [we] want to focus to provide services.”