The two biggest aspects of last night’s Ravenswood Station project were not even in the developers’ presentation: the developers require $4.4 million of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) money and the approval of a residential component of the project before it can go forward.
Using stronger language than his predecessor ever did in a community meeting, Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), reminded residents that approval or rejection of the project would be his, and his alone.
“This is not going to be a direct democracy,” said Pawar. “Mariano’s has an aggressive expansion plan. If this doesn’t break ground next year, they’re just not going to build here.”
Thursday night’s presentation was limited to the retail component planned by Great Lakes Partners and The Taxman Company. However, a second residential parcel to the north, which drew a great deal of community concern in previous developer proposals, would also be approved by the city as part of the planned development proposal submitted by developers. That component was not discussed in last night’s meeting, nor were developers for that project present at the meeting.
[See renderings of the proposed retail component here. Renderings of the proposed residential development are at the bottom of this article.]
Different from zoning changes, planned developments are sought by large developers because they establish from the outset of a project what is expected of the developer and because once approved by City Council, city officials have little ability to demand changes. Thus, developers seek lightly-defined planned developments, while community members usually seek strictly-defined planned developments.
As proposed today, the retail component of the planned development would be significantly detailed, while Ald. Pawar confirmed in an interview after last night’s meeting that he had no specific requirements or process for the residential half of the planned development.
The second parcel, according to documents submitted to Ald. Pawar, would include a second development, Ravenswood Terrace, with 162 new units and buildings up to six-stories tall. The $25 million development would be led by developer Greg Merdinger and designed by Grec Architects. The developer’s submitted plans suggest construction would start in June 2012 and residents would begin to move in on March 2013.
Pawar also said that retail component of the project, which is expected to cost $43 million and generate 200 construction jobs and 350 new retail jobs, requires $4.5 million in TIF funds to move forward. Developers, Pawar said, are able to obtain financing for most of the project, but not the final $4.5 million.
The retail developers project that once competed, the property will annually generate $1 million in property taxes, up from the current annual $110,000 tax bill. Therefore, Pawar calculates, the TIF allocation would be recouped in less than five years.
Another significant aspect of the project is that developers plan to time the construction of the retail and residential components to coincide with the new Metra station at Lawrence Ave. and reconstruction of the Lawrence Ave. rail overpass. Construction for all projects would begin in Spring 2012 with an anticipated Spring 2013 completion date.
Developers also announced that Sears plans to eliminate the 50 parking spaces currently rented to Metra commuters in the existing parking lot.