- May 28, 2019
The Village of Northbrook Trustees recently made a commitment to a public/private partnership for the redevelopment of Northbrook Court by approving creation of a Tax Increment Funding (TIF) District. The final form of that redevelopment appeared to be taking shape in May, as the Plan Commission reviewed the developers’ response to suggestions from Commissioners and complaints from neighboring residents.
Approval of the TIF District by the Board of Trustees locks in the EAV of property within the District. Taxing bodies will continue to receive revenue based on that set valuation, but waive the revenue on value above that caused by the redevelopment’s improvements for a maximum period of 23 years. The TIF structure would provide up to $21.5 million toward redevelopment. A sales tax rebate of $5.5 million is also under consideration as part of the current proposal advanced by mall owner Brookfield Properties.
The Trustees approved the ordinances creating the TIF by a 5-1 vote. Trustee Jim Karagianis, voting with the majority, described the structure as “very inexpensive insurance” to keep Northbrook Court healthy. “We’re rebating future increases in value, and that is costing us nothing today,” he said. He noted that the base includes current Macy’s revenue, which would disappear in the likely event that the store closes in the future. (His expectation proved to be accurate; Macy’s has announced that it will close its Northbrook Court location this summer.)
Trustee Robert Israel concurred, citing an NPR news report on the rapid changes in brick-and-mortar retail. “In the first third of 2019 we’ve already outpaced closures of stores than in all of 2018,” said Israel. “The people who are staying ahead do continual planning and adjust their tack as the storms approach. I think that this plan allows Northbrook Court to do that; I think it allows our Village to do that.”
Trustee Jason Han, the sole dissenting vote, reiterated his earlier statements that the TIF amounted to “corporate welfare.” He acknowledged, however, “that these types of financial tools have become the norm for developers and it is very likely that they wouldn’t develop without it.”
Plan Commission Evaluates Design Revisions
The details of the proposal were considered by the Plan Commission during its May 7 meeting, where Brookfield and residential developer Ryan Companies presented a revised plan. Commissioners and neighboring residents had complained in April that the proposed apartment buildings were too close to homes to the south of the current Macy’s building as well as too tall. The revisions presented May 7 responded by moving the apartments back to at least 100 feet from the nearest property and stepping the top floor of the buildings back 18 feet to reduce the overall height facing the neighbors. Brookfield also presented market research to demonstrate the viability of the proposed grocery store at the project, and outlined possible alternative uses if the grocery store were to fail.
During the Plan Commission hearing, Brookfield’s Adam Tritt stated that the companies would like to break ground on the project in August, soon after the closing of the Macy’s store. In response to a question from Chairperson Marcia Franklin, Tritt stated that demolition would not affect “very much” of the mall beyond Macy’s.
Several residents of the Glenbrook Countryside neighborhood, in unincorporated Cook County, spoke in opposition to the revised plan, saying they want the developers to work within the current zoning allowances of 50 feet in height and 150 feet in setback. However, the panel indicated that the developers had made great progress toward finding a workable compromise. Commissioner Steven Elisco noted that the revised plan had responded to his concerns about the massing of the apartment buildings on the south side, a view that was echoed by Commissioners Norm Jacobs, Johannah Hebl, Mark DeBartolo and Dan Pepoon. Commissioners Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Melnick continued to have reservations about, respectively, the grocery store and the apartment location, but each stated that they felt the developers had “come close” to a workable plan.
At the close of the May 7 meeting, the Commissioners voted unanimously for staff to prepare a resolution for discussion on May 21, in support of the development as proposed. Following that vote, the matter is expected to go to the Board of Trustees for consideration.