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Roseland, Pullman

CTA Primed To Buy Land Along Red Line Extension’s Path As Transit TIF Gets Key City Approval

The deal will allow the Cook County Land Bank to secure dozens of Far South Side properties until the CTA is ready to take them over to expand the Red Line.

A rendering of the proposed 103rd Street Red Line station, which would be built under the Red Line Extension project.
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ROSELAND — The CTA and the Cook County Land Bank Authority have reached a $4 million deal to buy and manage vacant Far South Side properties in preparation for the Red Line’s long-awaited extension south from 95th Street.

The Red Line Extension is the CTA’s $3.6 billion plan to extend the Red Line nearly 6 miles and move its terminal from 95th Street to 130th Street.

Stations would be built at 103rd and 111th streets near Eggleston Avenue, at Michigan Avenue near 116th Street and at 130th Street near Altgeld Gardens. Mayor Richard J. Daley promised to extend the Red Line beyond 95th Street when the Dan Ryan terminal opened in 1969.

A new agreement allows the land bank to buy 55 vacant, tax-delinquent properties along the Red Line Extension, clear the properties’ titles and hold and maintain them until the CTA is ready to take over and build the Red Line Extension, officials said.

The CTA will pay the land bank up to $3.83 million under the agreement.

“One of the biggest problems that any developer has — including public developers like the CTA — is [acquiring control of land] to start a project,” said Bridget Gainer, board chair for the land bank and a Cook County commissioner.

“What the land bank has done is gone in proactively and said … let’s go in proactively and clear the tax and titles, so when development does rear its head, we can move faster and we can redevelop more quickly,” Gainer said.

The agreement does not grant the CTA ownership of the 55 parcels. The agency and the land bank will close on sales of that land as needed, said Leah Mooney, the CTA’s director of strategic planning and policy.

The land’s transfer to the CTA would happen at times “that makes sense for us — if we need to do demolition work, environmental mitigation or sometimes utility relocation” on the parcels, Mooney said.

The 55 parcels make up about one-quarter of the 200-plus properties identified by the CTA as being affected by the Red Line Extension plans.

Some of the parcels the CTA identified are “right-of-way” parcels, on which the agency will build tracks, structures, stations and facilities for the Red Line Extension.

Credit: Chicago Transit Authority
A map showing the proposed Red Line Extension project’s route.

Others are “park replacement parcels,” which would be acquired and rehabbed by the CTA, then given to the Park District. That’s to make up for the construction of “L” tracks over Fernwood Parkway on the Washington Heights-Roseland border, Mooney said.

About 100 parcels are privately owned, of which 64 have occupied houses or buildings on them, Mooney said. The CTA is negotiating and ready to buy that land from willing sellers, but “not everybody is going to want to leave,” she said.

“It’s always our goal to reach a negotiated settlement,” but if that doesn’t happen, “the CTA does have eminent domain authority,” Mooney said. Eminent domain allows the government to take over properties for public projects such as the Red Line Extension in exchange for “just compensation” to the owner.

The other 110 or so parcels identified by the CTA are easements, are owned by local governments or railroads, must be partially acquired or are in some other state of ownership, Mooney said.

As the CTA works to secure properties for the extension, the agency is also pushing to create a transit tax-increment financing district, which passed a key hurdle this week.

The proposed district would funnel property tax revenue increases up to a half-mile from the current Red Line between Madison Street and Pershing Road into the Red Line Extension project for 35 years. The district would not impose any new taxes of its own.

The transit TIF could raise up to $959 million, funding nearly a quarter of the Red Line Extension. It would also meet most of a required “local match” for federal New Starts funding the CTA is pursuing, bolstering the agency’s case as it asks the feds to cover about 60 percent of the project’s costs.

The 3rd, 4th, 11th, 25th and 42nd wards would be included in the TIF.

City Council’s finance committee passed the ordinance Monday, setting up a vote before all 50 aldermen as soon as Wednesday.

“This isn’t something that we should wait on any longer,” said Ald. Nicole Lee (11th), who represents a portion of the proposed district.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) was the lone “no” vote.

“This takes money from one area of the city and shifts it miles away from the residents who generated the funding and live in these communities that still have many issues that need to be addressed,” Dowell said.

If approved by City Council, the transit TIF could be “one of our sources” to pay for the agreement with the county land bank, Mooney said.

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