College trustees considering Kennedy-King TIF

  • By Peter Sachs
  • Education reporter
  • October 03, 2008 @ 10:31 AM

The City Colleges of Chicago are considering a plan that would turn the neighborhood surrounding the old Kennedy-King College into an urban renewal zone.

At its meeting yesterday morning, the city colleges Board of Trustees voted unanimously to spend up to $102,000 to have the Johnson Research Group draw up plans for a tax increment financing district encompassing the now-vacant campus.

While it’s too early to say how much money the tax increment financing district would generate, at least one of the projects it would pay for is the demolition of the old campus, officials say.

The 18-acre campus at South Wentworth Avenue and West Marquette Road in Englewood closed down in 2007 when the new one opened about a mile to the northwest.

The old campus has been awaiting demolition since then. The city college district is paying $344,000 per year the keep the old campus boarded up and to pay for security guards to watch over it, according to district documents.

Tax increment financing districts, or TIFs, are established to fund improvements in areas suffering from blight. The TIF diverts a portion of property taxes generated in the district to redevelopment. That money is used to make the payments on bonds for projects in the district such as new streets, sidewalks, sewers and other infrastructure.

There was no competitive bid for the planning work on the Kennedy-King TIF because it is considered a “professional service,” according to district documents.

In the coming months, the company hired by the city colleges will figure out things like the exact area the TIF would cover, how much money it could raise and what projects the money would go toward.

“As far as preliminary ideas, we really don’t like to speculate on what we might do,” district spokeswoman Elsa Tullos says.

A one-page report to the Board of Trustees listed demolition of the old Kennedy-King as one use, as well as shoring up the district’s budget. Tullos added the money would be “to manage operations” but did not elaborate.

Under state law, TIF money can’t go into the district’s general fund. Instead, money must be used on projects related to the TIF's economic development efforts, according to the Illinois Tax Increment Association, a nonprofit trade organization.

The vote to create the Kennedy-King TIF district would probably come in spring 2009.

The original Kennedy-King College, opened in 1972, cost $31 million at the time, or $162 million in today’s dollars. The new campus at West 63rd Street and South Halstead Street cost $262 million to build and opened in the summer of 2007.

The new TIF, if created, would be immediately south of the 1200-acre Englewood Neighborhood TIF, which was created in 2001. 

Peter Sachs is a Chicago-based journalist. He covers higher education for the Daily News.