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Loop Alliance Plan to Spruce Up Wabash, Michigan Avenues Scrapped

 An "activation event" sponsored by the Chicago Loop Alliance.
An "activation event" sponsored by the Chicago Loop Alliance.
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Courtesy Chicago Loop Alliance

THE LOOP — The Chicago Loop Alliance is backpedaling on plans to expand its street-cleaning, snow removal and other services to Wabash and Michigan avenues after business owners on the neighboring Downtown streets voiced opposition for the accompanying tax hike.

The rollback means plans to give Wabash a facelift would be scrapped.

"After listening to public opinion at two community meetings and one-on-one discussions with numerous property owners, as well as consulting with Alderman [Brendan] Reilly," the Loop Alliance "assessed there is consensus on the value of services provided within the current SSA service area" and "have decided to pursue a renewal for SSA #1, not an expansion," the alliance announced Monday.

Special Service Area 1 (SSA 1), which was founded in 1977, provides services to businesses and buildings on State Street, between Congress Parkway and Wacker Drive. The services, including additional snow removal, panhandler management and  "activation" events, are separate from regular city services.

The SSA, which has been managed by the Loop Alliance since the group was formed in 2005, requires additional property taxes from commercial property owners on State.

Every 15 years, the Loop Alliance has to renew its service contract with the city's Department of Planning and Development. As this year's mid-June renewal deadline approached, the Loop Alliance proposed expanding its service area to include Michigan and Wabash avenues and parts of Dearborn Street.

"Jewelers Row is, in my opinion, an underutilized asset on Wabash, and we could really amplify that," said Mike Edwards, executive director of the Loop Alliance, at a community meeting last month soliciting feedback about the proposed expansion.

But several business owners in the proposed expansion area balked at the price tag for the Loop Alliance's services, which would have been mandatory if the expansion was approved.

Steve Hennessey, general manager at 225 N. Michigan Ave., said his building's tax increase would be about $500,000 if it's included in SSA 1's new boundaries.

"I'm not saying that the SSA doesn't do the job or that it's not needed, but I can't see the value of us paying this much money, that my tenants are getting $500,000 worth of value," he said.

"My competitors are right around the corner at 233 N. Michigan, which is not even included in the SSA. All of a sudden my taxes go up while I'm trying to get to a competitive rent, and they don't have a tax increase. Other people are going to benefit from not paying anything."

Ron Tabaczynski, director of government affairs at the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago (BOMA/Chicago), said his group's members overwhelmingly opposed being absorbed into SSA 1.