Chicago Ridge’s hopes improve for development of Harlem Avenue land

                                                                                                              Photo by Dermot Connolly

The long-vacant, former Yellow Freight property at 103rd and Harlem Avenue takes up a large part of Chicago Ridge’s Harlem Avenue TIF District. Village officials are hoping that a new law preventing the current owner of the property from having it annexed to a neighboring municipality will lead to the sale of the property to another developer.

By Dermot Connolly

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar believes the chances of finally developing a long vacant piece of property in the Harlem Avenue TIF district are greatly improved with a new law preventing it from being disconnected from the village.

Gov. Bruce Rauner had initially vetoed the bill sponsored by state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th), which prevents landowners from disconnecting their property from a municipality if the land is contained within a tax increment financing district.

Crown Enterprises, which bought the abandoned Yellow Freight trucking yard on Harlem Avenue at 10301 S. Harlem Ave. in 2017, wants to disconnect the 75-acre property from the city’s TIF district and annex it to one of the adjoining communities, either Palos Hills or Bridgeview.

Senate Democrats and Republicans in the Senate voted 50-1 on Nov. 28 to override the governor’s veto. This follows the House’s successful override vote on Nov. 14.

It will now become law, without needing the governor’s signature.

“This bill will stop the current owner of the property from scuttling the Chicago Ridge economic redevelopment plan for the property and the entire Harlem Avenue corridor,” Cunningham said in a statement.

The dilapidated site is located within the larger 105-acre TIF zone, the largest undeveloped piece of property left in the village. It was left vacant by Yellow Freight and purchased by Chippewa Motor Freight Inc.

The issue came to a head in April of 2017, soon after the Village Board voted to rezone the property as regional mixed-use and ban it from being used as a trucking terminal again. Tokar said at the time that he would like to see the whole property, stretching from 101st Street to Southwest Highway, become an entertainment and retail destination, with perhaps some residential units.

But shortly after the rezoning was accomplished, it came to light that the former trucking terminal had already been purchased by Crown Enterprises, with the intention of turning it back into a trucking terminal.

Crown Enterprises then slapped the village with a lawsuit, claiming the rezoning was done after it had already been purchased.

“I think this new law makes moot the lawsuit seeking the disconnect,” said Tokar on Tuesday.

“I think it will make Crown Enterprises more willing to sell it to another developer, because no lawyer is going to take on that lawsuit,” said the mayor.

“I really give Senator Cunningham and state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th) in the House for sponsoring the bill and getting this override. It is good for the whole state, not just Chicago Ridge,” added Tokar, who plans to honor both legislators at the next Village Board meeting on Dec. 18.

“Getting a TIF district in place takes a lot of time and money. It costs sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars to get all the pieces together. If this veto was allowed to stand, and TIF districts could be disconnected like that, those municipalities would be out all that money,” said Tokar.



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