North Lawndale TIF opposed by residents

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About 100 concerned residents and affected property owners protested a proposed Tax Increment Financing redevelopment project on the West Side during a Tuesday City Hall news conference. The Lawndale Alliance, a community organization in North Lawndale, h

“We will not sit back and watch the city take away our property and our children’s inheritance,” Valerie Leonard, co-founder of the Lawndale Alliance, told the Defender. “The mayor needs to know that we are not going down without a fight and the city’s current TIF proposal is totally unacceptable.”

Leonard added that the proposed TIF district does not serve the best interests for North Lawndale. She said some of the concerns residents have include the TIF Advisory Council promised at a public meeting Oct. 9 by Ald. Sharon Dixon (24th) and a lack of accountability to the North Lawndale community about the TIF project.

Daley did not attend the news conference, despite being invited by the Lawndale Alliance, but Lance Lewis, the assistant press secretary to the mayor, did attend. “The mayor is aware property taxes are a big concern for residents and that’s why he is working with the Cook County Assessor’s Office to see what changes can be made,” Lewis said.

“But residents should also know that a TIF project taking place in their community is up to the local alderman, not the mayor.” Dixon did not return phone calls seeking comment. The Ogden/Pulaski TIF proposal was approved by a vote of 6 to 1 at Tuesday’s Community Development Commission meeting at City Hall and is expected to go before the City Council for a vote in April. A total of 652 parcels of land will be acquired as a result of the TIF District, according to Arnold Randall, commissioner for the Chicago Department of Planning and Development.

"The goal of this TIF is to spark more economic development of retail and affordable housing to the area, not to displace residents through eminent domain, as some residents believe will happen," said Randall. Affected property owners like Shirley Robinson, 57, a 30-year North Lawndale resident, said the city is not playing fair and is offering below-market prices for the properties. “I own a three-flat building at 4218 W. Ogden and it appraised for $325,000. But the city had it appraised for $225,000 before I had the property renovated and now it is worth more,” Robinson said.

“I am $264,000 in debt after renovating it so if I accept the city’s offer, I will still be $39,000 in the hole and no where to live.” And while some residents are not faced with displacement they are still concerned about rising property taxes.

“My home is not on the list of effected properties but I still live in the area, so I will be eventually taxed out,” said Dessie Brown, 68, a 44-year North Lawndale resident. Brown said that the mayor wants to relocate Black families out of the city and into the suburbs so tourists do not see how low-income families live in a big city like Chicago.

“White folks once owned these homes and then sold them in the 1980s to move to the suburbs but now they want to move back to the city and displacing Black families with TIF projects is a convenient way of giving them back their land,” added Brown. TIF is a public financing tool used to assist economic development projects.

Taxes collected in a TIF District remain in that geographic area to stimulate infrastructure improvements and more development.

______ Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.  

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