Spot Check: Let's Make a Deal - The VC Jump Starts the Downtown Master Plan?

Winnetka’s own candidate for "Desperate Landscapes" is about to get a makeover. And the terms “public-private partnership” and “TIF” are about to get a workout. Vroom-vroom, Fred's Garage.


Fred's Garage, at the corner of Spruce and Chestnut, has been behind chain link for the past year. The developer was planning to spend $63,000 on pots, plants, and curb cuts when he found out the Village was going to do pretty much the same - just not right now, and not just there.

Instead, on tap for 2017 was $370,000 of signs, bike racks, parklets and a post office site evaluation - early action items from the Downtown Master Plan. Nevertheless, the developer said "Let's chat." To which the VC replied, "Hmmm."

Open Wide, Gift Horse

In the DMP, but on the shelf for now, was a $482,000 reno of that entire block - infrastructure and streetscape - from Spruce south to the alley, both sides.

On March 7th, Team Winnetka wondered what would happen if it stuck a pin in the early action items, took that $370,000 and the developer's $63,000, found a source for the remaining $49,000, and showed residents and future developers what downtown revitalization really looks like. Years ahead of schedule.

Trustee-on-trustee ensued. Some raised eyebrows, others leaned in.

Headnods -

  • The project could show quick results while waiting for One Winnetka's part of the streetscape plan to get going.
  • The project's per-unit-cost data could help future developers and the Village bid better.
  • Other people’s money could help get done what was on the books anyway.
  • The corner wouldn't need to be redone to DMP specs later.
  • The VC would DIY the project, shaving bucks from Teska's management fee.

Back-and-forths -

  • Would going off-script risk action items?
  • Would piece-mealing make rollout of the Master Plan harder?
  • Would the payback be worth changing course?
  • Would this set a too-interesting precedent?
  • Would adjacent properties want in?
  • Does the project go far enough?
  • Could we get more for our money?
  • Can it be done during this construction cycle?
  • Can their vision and our vision find happiness?

Spring Clean-Up

Over the next several weeks, the VC will look at financing options, review the old "don't-call-it-a-streetscape plan" and possibly have a sit-down with its authors, the Lakota Group, (of the Hubbard Woods Park, Duke Childs Field, and Lakefront renos) to see if there's any "there" still there. And find out if any other retailers want in. Without losing sight of those bike racks, parklets, signs and Post Office eval. Oh, and staff will keep the convo going with the developer. Same page on notice.

“Financing Options?”

Five of them were proposed, one was discussed. The rest are in the pocket in case the TIF doesn’t win the toss. Think special service areas, home rule sales tax, business district designation, and land write-downs, with fund-raising a distant 5th.

What's a TIF?

Tax Increment Financing. Controversial. Uses the increased taxes from the increased value of a development to pay for the cost of developing property. No new taxes, no bonds, no dipping into reserves. Sweet if property increases in value. Urban development economic death-spiral if it doesn't. And then there's a little issue of who gets the cash if it pays off early and becomes the gift that keeps on giving.

How Would Winnetka TIF?

Step 1: Select a consultant to tell us if what the VC wants to do can be legally financed by a TIF. Check

Step 2: If doable, find out if there's still a taste for TIFs.

Step 3: Go, no go. If no go, special service areas and home rule sales tax are up next. Dateline: "early this summer." Pricetag: $30-50,000.

Many Eyes on the Prize

That bocce court in Hubbard Woods? Look across the street. Goodbye, Hubbard Woods Motors. Buongiorno, Mino's Italian Ristorante. Then there are the acquisitive Hoffmanns who think Winnetka's waaay overdue for a face-lift. And our new full-time Economic Development Coordinator whose job is to BFF future Winnetka businesses. This "partnership," and a TIF might make all of their lives a lot more interesting. Ours, too.

PS: Parklets (color us curious, too)

Less park, more bike racks on steroids - for humans. Particularly for humans under the age of 40. It's a thing with urban planners right now. Trades parking spaces for public places. Economics vs demographics. Will make for interesting convos. Picture yourself parked here, here, and here.

Enough about Them - What about You?

  • If you've read this far, you'll probably be interested in the Village's eDevelopment newsletter. We should have told you about this sooner. Our bad.
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