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Rezoning of vacant freight terminal expected to appeal to developers

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

 

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar is optimistic about the village’s chances of marking the largely vacant Harlem Avenue TIF district to developers now that it has been rezoned for regional mixed use.

The Village Board unanimously approved the rezoning at a meeting last month. Tokar said then that it was “one of the most important votes” the board had taken in many years, because of the positive economic impact it could have on the village. The largely vacant 105-acre TIF district stretches south from 100rd Street along Harlem Avenue, nearly as far as Southwest Highway. The site is mainly taken up by the 70-acre former Yellow Freight property, which is now owned by Chippewa Motor Freight Inc.

“The regional mixed use designation permits a lot of different types of development, including entertainment, retail, and residential -- except for a trucking terminal. So I think Chippewa will be in the market to sell,” said the mayor during an interview on Monday.

Tokar predicted that if the property does get successfully developed, the village could even restart its property tax rebate program, which had to be put on hold when the economy sank in 2008 and the village lost nearly half its tax revenue.

“Even when Yellow Freight was there, it didn’t generate much money for the village,” said Tokar. “We couldn’t even sell them vehicle stickers because they were doing interstate commerce.”

Penske Truck Rental is currently the only tenant now. The company plans to remain onsite, and received approval from the village recently to begin selling different types of trucks.

Tokar said among many inquiries the village has received was one that came from a developer involved in e-commerce, who expressed an interest in operating a business similar to Amazon on the property.

“We would be entitled to a percentage of the sales tax from that,” he noted.

The mayor said the regional mixed use designation makes it possible for movie theaters, restaurants, retail and other businesses to move in.

“That would mean five or six streams of revenue coming into the village,” he said, counting sales taxes on food and beverages, entertainment and other fees.

While much of the TIF district is not publicly owned, Tokar pointed out that the village does own the piece of the property located on the northeast corner of 103rd and Harlem, where a Nicobee’s restaurant once stood. The village tore down the building last year, and Tokar said that site could very well be the first piece to be redeveloped.

“One person has expressed an interest in it. He suggested turning it into a retail strip, perhaps with a Starbuck’s as part of it. That would be a nice addition because I don’t think there is a Starbuck’s between 79th Street and 119th Street.”

He said another proposal came from someone interested opening a gas station with a mini-mart there, but the mayor said gas stations are more plentiful.

A craft brewery was expected to win approval from the board at Tuesday’s meeting to open at 10215 S. Harlem Ave., which the mayor said the entire board seems to be in favor of.

“That will be a great addition to the village, main thing is to create more revenue sources so we don’t have to depend so much on residents for property taxes,” said the mayor. “We have about 100 full-time employees and nobody wants to raise property taxes.”