Des Plaines wants to create a "second downtown" complete with apartments, shops and even a new train station.
For years, city leaders have eyed the struggling corridor at the intersection of Oakton and Lee streets as ripe with potential. Though it's seen some development recently, with the arrival of Butera Fruit Market, for example, the area has been somewhat forgotten, officials say.
"I think we've all become accustomed to them being quiet," 3rd Ward Alderman Denise Rodd said. "It's really dead. There's no activity on that section of Oakton."
Now it could get attention for years to come.
The city took its first steps this week toward creating a tax increment financing district, an economic development tool intended to encourage development in blighted or underutilized areas.
In a TIF district, increased tax revenues generated by new development are diverted to a fund used to pay for improvements within the area. Throughout the 23-year life of the district, other taxing bodies such as schools and park districts continue receiving tax revenues equal only to what they received when the district was created.
The diverted funds could be used to pay for public infrastructure improvements, such as roads and sidewalks, and provide financial assistance for private developments determined to be otherwise unfeasible.
The resolution that aldermen unanimously approved Monday will convene a joint review board to discuss the potential TIF district with other taxing districts. That includes Cook County, Maine Township High School District 207, Des Plaines District 62, Oakton Community College, the Des Plaines Park District and Des Plaines Library District. The resolution also set a public hearing to take testimony Aug. 5.
Meanwhile, building a Metra train station on the North Central line at Oakton and Lee streets is a key part of the city's vision. That part of the plan is closer to becoming a reality. A study to determine the feasibility of a train station at the location is nearly complete and the results appear favorable, City Manager Mike Bartholomew said.
"We feel very strongly that they will approve this station," Bartholomew said.
The city will be on the hook to pay for the $10 million to $12 million station. Yet city leaders predict a train station could be a catalyst for future transit-oriented development, particularly high-density residential housing similar to that in the city's downtown. It also could improve the value of nearby homes.
According to the city, nearly 80 percent of the properties in the proposed TIF district are more than 35 years old and the area has lagged in annual growth rates three of the past five years.
"It has the potential to be a place that doesn't only look better but changes the complexion of transit-oriented design, and frankly, home values on the south side of town," Mayor Matt Bogusz said.