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Spanish Daily Journal
     February 4, 2020      #18-35 sdj
 
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The property where Uncle Johnnis Restaurant and Pancake House on East Court Street in Kankakee was once located, but is now vacant, is part of the 631-acre Tax Increment Financing District.

Kankakee City Council approves East Court TIF

El Ayuntamiento de Kankakee aprueba TIF de East Court

KANKAKEE — After months of planning and mapping, Kankakee’s East Court Street Tax Increment Financing District is in place.

The tool designed to kick-start development in blighted areas has a 23-year lifespan, but city officials hope it takes far less time to see improvements in the long-struggling eastern entrance to the city.

At Monday’s Kankakee City Council meeting, the creation of the 631-acre TIF district was approved by a 13-0 vote.

The district stretches from the Eastgate Industrial Park on its eastern side and travels along East Court Street and ends at Harrison Avenue in downtown Kankakee.

Basically, a TIF district is a public financing method for a designated area in which development is being sought. The creation of a TIF district allows a municipality to collect increased property taxes from that designated area and set the money aside for potential development or improvements in the area which it was collected.

The TIF initially was targeted to be 545 acres, but council members wanted it to include more area along East Court as it entered the downtown, thus expanding the district by 86 acres.

City planner Mike Hoffman said the ultimate goal is to make East Court a welcoming area to the city.

To put in politely, the area is not exactly welcoming.

The TIF does include some residential properties, but most of the district is dedicated to industrially and commercially zoned areas.

“This is about creating jobs and creating a tax base. Our goal is also improving the entrance to the city of Kankakee,” Hoffman said. “This is the front door for the community and we want a good entrance.”

Hoffman said there have only been some very basic discussions with developers. He said they don’t typically bring plans forward until the district is created.

Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong said East Court development is critical to change the dynamics of the city’s east side.

“There is the potential for significant impact. These are the type of areas TIFs were created to help,” she said.

Once a thriving business district, East Court Street has been on the downward spiral since the 1980s. The area is plagued with vacant lots and empty buildings. There have been a few positive developments — such as the Riverside Medical Center office, LaBeau Brothers truck dealership and a couple fast-food restaurants — but mostly the region has experienced little development.

This is the second newly created TIF in Kankakee. Last year, a TIF was created to aid development opportunities in the area for the proposed Kankakee Riverfront development.

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