First time aldermen recommend rescinding TIF money for downtown project

First time aldermen recommend rescinding TIF money for downtown project

Tuesday, for the first time ever, the current Springfield city council voted to recommend cancelling TIF money for a downtown renovation project.

Some aldermen said they want to protect taxpayer dollars and make sure money is well spent.

The project in question is for two buildings at 6th Street and Monroe Street owned by a developer called Bright New Day Investments.

The owner, Rick Lawrence, wants to turn them into high end apartment complexes, but according to some aldermen, including Ward 10 Ald. Ralph Hanauer and Ward 9 Jim Donelan, the process is taking too long.

Now, aldermen are taking action and with it and they're sending a message.

"Basically, rejuvenate areas,” Ald. Donelan said.

Ald. Donelan said TIF districts can help Springfield flourish. A TIF district is an area where the amount of taxes is frozen and any tax above the base, goes into funding approved projects. Ald. Donelan said many projects have thrived, but said right now one project is stalling.

“Conditions that were outlined in the deadlines, that were put forward as part of the agreement, have not been followed,” said Ald. Donelan.

He said the millions of dollars could go to other projects.

The owner of Willow and Birch Salon, Jessica Kocurek, used TIF dollars last year to relocate to downtown. .

"Honestly without the TIF money,” Kocurek said. “We would've never been able to make this happen."

Kocurek thanks the city for her new opportunity.

“It's our responsibility to utilize the money,” Kocurek said. “And use it in a quick manner because it doesn't benefit the city to give you that money if you are not avidly trying to put that money back in and open, so it pays itself off."

Tuesday, Lawrence addressed Springfield’s Committee of the Whole.

“I have dropped back and regrouped and tried to focus on fixing the pieces that were broken,” Lawrence said.

He said he hopes to make progress soon. Months ago, Lawrence had problems with tax credits and fell behind on paying back vendors and subcontractors, which included about $459,000 for union laborers. In January, about $1.1 million TIF funds were narrowly approved with Mayor Jim Langfelder breaking a tie.

Lawrence had conditions and deadlines to meet with the approval, but so far, has struggled to meet them.

"This ordinance has come about to make it very clear,” Ald. Donelan said. “That the council and the city doesn't mean to keep extending things indefinitely and I don't think it's anybody in the council that doesn't want to see redevelopment in that building."

Tuesday, Committee of the Whole voted 7-2 to pass the ordinance onto city council, with Ald. John Fulgenzi and Ald. Joe McMenamin voting against.

Ald. Ralph Hanauer who drafted the ordinance was absent on a work trip. City Council plans to vote whether to get rid of the TIF money next council meeting in two weeks.

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