UPTOWN — It looks like it's back to the drawing board for JDL Development.
The city offered the company a tax increment financing subsidy that's about $20 million less than what JDL originally wanted to build luxury housing near the lakefront, in Uptown's Montrose/Clarendon TIF District.
The plan — which has divided the Uptown community since its inception for issues related to affordable housing, historic preservation and TIF funding — would build a two-tower high-end housing development with 26,000 square feet of retail space and a private park at the former site of Maryville Academy.
Uptown residents have been questioning whether the $220 million project planned at Montrose and Clarendon avenues is dead or alive. There have been few (if any) substantial indications of its progress since the winter.
Tressa Feher, chief of staff to Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said Friday the city's offer earlier this year of a $14 million tax increment financing subsidy to help the project has caused the developer some headaches.
She said the amount of TIF money offered "is so low that they're still trying to get financing."
She added that JDL — which had originally wanted a $32 million subsidy and would have also renovated the dilapidated Clarendon Park Field House before the city shelved that option — "might change the project a little."
"They had to go back to their financial partners and work out a deal," Feher said. "And that's what they're still working on, getting the financing in place."
The city's goal was to make the subsidy as small as possible without jeopardizing the housing project, according to Cappleman's office. Once the property taxes collected from the JDL project cover JDL's subsidy, excess funds could be used to fix Clarendon, officials said.
In a development update that lacked substantial news about the JDL plan, Cappleman sent an email to constituents last week emphasizing his focus within the TIF district "is to fund a remodel for Clarendon Park."
"I will continue to work with the City to see if there is a way to make this development happen so we can bring Clarendon Park up to code," he said.
JDL Development President James Letchinger did not respond to requests for comment. But Letchinger told DNAinfo last year that his initial TIF request was so big because he wanted "to help the field house."
The city, he said, feels "that there will be other opportunities to get the field house work done."
TIFs divert a portion of property taxes to use for improvements in a designated area. Critics contend the funding tool amounts to a subsidy for rich developers at the expense of local schools and other community needs. Supporters see it as a useful vehicle to spur private investment and economic development.
The 46th Ward Zoning and Development Committee recommended the $14 million subsidy at a February meeting.
Some opponents decried the multi-million dollar city subsidy in the aftermath of a record number of school closings justified as a cost-cutting measure — and the city's decision last fall to remove the much-anticipated renovation of Clarendon Park from JDL's initial plans.
Cappleman has said that he wasn't pleased with the city's offer and wanted the luxury development tied to the restoration of Clarendon Park.
The city subsidy would not be given upfront to JDL. The developer would not receive the money until the first building is completed, occupied and generating property tax revenue for the Montrose/Clarendon TIF district.
Once the project generates enough money to cover the subsidy, any extra property tax revenue could be used to rehab the park, officials said.
The city and JDL still have to sign documents sealing the JDL TIF arrangement, and the developer still has to pursue zoning and other approvals from the city to make the luxury project happen.
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