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Added Mar 27 2012

I have an idea that may help save the theater and ensure its place in the community for decades to come.

• First we set up a foundation; we can call it the Portage Theater Foundation.
• We then use TIF funds from the over $10 Million dollars in the Portage Park TIF and buy the property for the full $2.5 million that the owner is asking for.
• We then turn the property over to the foundation for $1

This sets up a foundation with no multi-million dollar loan to repay; this allows the foundation to offer the retail space at a discounted rent to attract a dance studio, music store, acting school, art school, etc; businesses that would attract families to the area that would center on the theater. All the revenue generated would go toward property maintenance, renovations and taxes. Any surplus could be used for scholarships for local schools for the arts.

This would create something similar to the Copernicus Center or the Irish Heritage Center. We can still do the Jazz club and restaurant, they would just lease from the Foundation.

TIF money was used to purchase properties and sell them to a developer at Milwaukee and Lawrence. One of the lots was given to the Copernicus for $1.

TIF money is our property tax dollars. The turnout at the meeting on the 26th shows the community wants to save the theater, so why not use our money for something the community clearly wants.

The ideas presented and plans for the theater should another buyer have the opportunity to buy sound great. My only concern going from one property owner to another is running into this same problem down the road should we have another down-turn in the economy.

It’s clear our Alderman supports the theater and intends to do what he can to save the theater. Working together with the Mayor, I believe he can get this done; especially if he is able to show the overwhelming support he has from the community.

I hope this helps or at least stimulates more ideas,

John Garrido

  • kenji Find us here --> http://reddit.com/r/greatNWside

    We were told last night there's now two offers for the property. Your idea would add a third offer.

    How long until you think your idea could deposit 2.5mil in the bank for the real estate closing transaction?

  • Inactive user

    Who has the authority to divert $2.5 million from the TIF fund? The mayor? The City Council? Is this a realistic alternative?

  • kenji Find us here --> http://reddit.com/r/greatNWside

    @jake, the guy just posted 7+ paragraphs, it must be realistic. Why wouldn't it be?

  • Inactive user

    I am asking, not saying. If it would need approval from people who are not on board or not doable in a timely manner, it would not be realistic. And a lot of people write seven pargraphs on here without being realistic..

  • kenji Find us here --> http://reddit.com/r/greatNWside

    So your advice Jake, is? Keep it real?

  • Inactive user

    Yes, and click it or ticket.

  • John Garrido Gladstone Park resident, Attorney, Police Officer

    I don't know the owner's situation, so I'm not sure what his time line is? Like anything in this city, when there is a will, there is a way. That's where the Alderman and the Mayor come in.

    It won't happen over night, but it may very well take the same amount of time they are looking to close on the current deal on the table.

    If we are able to show the owner that we can put this together, maybe he will withdraw from the church deal and allow this to be put together.

    The bottom line is there is plenty of money sitting in a TIF that covers this area. I'm also not saying this will be easy; it's going to take a lot of work. After seeing the turnout the other night, we definitely have the help available to put it together.

  • kenji Find us here --> http://reddit.com/r/greatNWside

    Who is "we" you mention? Just wondering.

  • Inactive user

    So one alderman can do this or the whole City Council? And if a non-profit foundation buys the property will the building come off the property tax rolls, the foundation not pay sales taxes that current tenants do, etc.?

  • John Garrido Gladstone Park resident, Attorney, Police Officer

    The city council votes on it, but if the Mayor is behind it and an Alderman wants it, it usually happens.

    @Kenji, the collective we; the community, the alderman, the neighborhood associations and business associations.

    Not sure if it comes off the tax rolls, but it will for sure as a church. I would rather it come off adding jobs and remaining the theater that it is.

    In Feb. the City Council just approved 3.7 million for a biotech lab. Maybe you can ask the Alderman how long it took from the time the request was submitted until it was approved and money released and I doubt that one was a rush request like this one.

    If the Mayor submitted the request the day he took office, it would be approximately 9 months; unless it began under the old mayor.

  • OldIrving Anna on a quest for craft brewed "zimne piwo"

    Great idea, John. I believe the 2nd offer currently on the table includes a combination of TIF and private financing. That would ensure that the building stays on the property, TIF and SSA rolls. Also, the Portage Park TIF fund would not be totally depleted so that it could be used to help more businesses.

  • John Garrido Gladstone Park resident, Attorney, Police Officer

    Great Anna. Like I said, it was just an idea to protect it long term. The city gives lots of property away, so why not this one.

  • John Garrido Gladstone Park resident, Attorney, Police Officer

    Thankfully there must be enough time if TIF funds are being used for the 2nd offer.

  • Inactive user

    TIF funds are meant to spur economic development, and this project would likely do that. But it is not always the case -- it doesn't seem that the Copernicus, as nice as it is, has lured any real economic development nearby. Downtown Jefferson Park is as bad as Six Corners.

  • John Garrido Gladstone Park resident, Attorney, Police Officer

    Agreed Jake, it doesn't work everywhere. This is a unique situation where you can actually eliminate the monthly mortgage that would come with a multi-million dollar loan.

    You wouldn't have to worry about foreclosure and the foundation would really get a running start to do good things in the area.

  • John Garrido Gladstone Park resident, Attorney, Police Officer

    Here is an example of how TIF money is spent elsewhere in the city.

    Why not use it to benefit the Portage Theater and eliminate the burden of a multi-million dollar bank loan?

    "Some TIF money — nearly $200 million — has been approved for nonprofits, including the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies and Rush University Medical Center, which will receive $75 million..."

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/06/953394/-Chicago-TIF-money-records-show-given-to-Corporate-giants

  • OldIrving Anna on a quest for craft brewed "zimne piwo"

    @JohnG and all--none of us have the technical expertise about the Portage Park TIF and know all the facts of the situation. Only the seller, potential buyers, R.E. lawyers, and some city officials administering TIF's have all the cards. We can play coulda, shoulda, woulda--but for what purpose?

    Only lay person who is qualified to weigh in on the issue is the godfather of TIF's, Ben Joravsky, Chicago Reader journalist and TIF expert who's been trying to demystify the process for years.

    @Kenji--my Google finger is broken. Where's the best link to Joravsky's TIF Bible?

    Think Joravsky has already said that the Portage Theater is a textbook case for how to use TIF funds as they were originally envisioned--to jumpstart local economic development--instead of the private development kitty they've become.

    Looks like a responsible & appropriate TIF fund component is part of the second offer. We're not privy to the time constraints & transaction timeline. We know we don't want the Portage Theater building pulled off the various tax rolls, which would happen if it became a non profit foundation.

  • Dirk Portage Park

    I think talking to Alderman Arena is the best next step for the idea. I know there's already been talk of something similar, but since the Alderman is already offering TIFs, he'd be the one to weigh in.

  • Tracy Rowan Author and life-long Chicago resident

    I think this is a terrific idea.

    Jake, Copernicus, being a Polish cultural center, is specific to an ethnic community whereas the Portage is not. That does make a difference to the kind of economic growth that you're going to see in an area.

  • kenji Find us here --> http://reddit.com/r/greatNWside

    Here's TIF's and property taxes as explained by Ben Jovravsky of the Reader:

    http://www.chicagoreader.com/gyrobase/how-property-taxes-and-tifs-work/Content?oid=4883980&showFullText=true

  • Inactive user

    Poles don't spend?

  • As Anna mentioned, I think TIF funds have been discussed already as part of a solution. The Alderman can look into the logistics of using TIFs in his own ward, so I second the motion to contact him. Find out what he may have already put into motion.

    Related but shameless plug for community action: Another opportunity to show our support for the Portage Theater is happening tomorrow evening! Stay on top of the situation by checking savetheportagetheater.org.

  • Tracy Rowan Author and life-long Chicago resident

    I don't think that's the point, Jake. The point is perception. If a place appeals to a broad range of people vs one that appeals to a smaller range, the perception is that there won't be as much economic opportunity for different sorts of businesses. Clearly Polish-owned businesses do well in the Copernicus area, but it's not drawing a broader range of businesses.

    One of the arguments against the Tabernacle is that in spite of their contention that their MANY members will be attending a lot of events and services at the church, those members are perceived to be less likely to spend money in the neighborhood than the audiences the Portage brings in.

  • Inactive user

    But if the Lomas Verdes post is correct, the theatergoers aren't supporting neighboring businesses either.

  • kenji Find us here --> http://reddit.com/r/greatNWside

    The Savoy, the corner store, says they see theater patrons in their store all the time. They count on the biz from the Portage Theater. I asked yesterday after I saw the Lomo comment.

  • Tracy Rowan Author and life-long Chicago resident

    As I indicated, Jake, it's about perception. Look at the discussions of how to bring businesses into the area, particularly the myriad discussions of Trader Joe's and the old BoA building. TJ's has, IIRC, said outright that the neighborhood demographic isn't good for them. That doesn't mean that they KNOW they won't get enough business. They simply think they won't based on who lives here. Perception. Tell me, if you were opening a new business, say a bookstore, an upscale restaurant, a pub, or something other than the dollar store/currency exchange/payday loan/fast food type place that dominates the landscape at six corners, which group would you perceive would spend more money with you, the church or the theater audience? Yet you couldn't know that for sure unless you went ahead with your plans. That's why demographics are important to businesses and demographics are about perception.

  • Inactive user

    Unless you're a brimstone store.

  • Tracy Rowan Author and life-long Chicago resident

    True. I'm guessing that the best neighborhood demographic for something like that would be Pandemonium where the rent is an arm and a leg.

  • Dirk Portage Park

    Lomas Verdes is cash only. That has stopped me from patronizing them on several occasions.

  • kenji Find us here --> http://reddit.com/r/greatNWside

    @Jake, HA!

    How many SKU's are there for God's wrath products?

  • Tracy Rowan Author and life-long Chicago resident

    Not many, but then the market has pretty much been cornered, hasn't it?

  • kenji Find us here --> http://reddit.com/r/greatNWside

    Cash only, still?

    That's not a good thing for business in 2012, in this neighborhood.

  • Tracy Rowan Author and life-long Chicago resident

    Dirk, so is Las Tablas which is across from the Patio. It does put a bit of a crimp into our plans.

  • Inactive user

    Locusts "R" Us.

  • I don't think I've gone to a restaurant that is cash only more than once or twice in the past year. I hardly ever have actual cash in my pocket, and when I do I prefer not to use it because my kids need cash only for hot lunch, milk, field trips, whathave you. Even at McDonalds, if I go to the drive thru for a $1.00 Diet Coke, I use my debit card every time. Also, my spending gets recorded that way, which I like.

  • Inactive user

    Sometimes a business doing poorly has more to do with the quality or desirability of the product offered or the customer service, not the economy or whether successful businesses are next door. There was a skit involving a Scotch Tape store on early SNL. Wherever you put that it would fail. Speaking of customer service, the reviews of the Sportif bike shop on Yelp are pretty hilarious.

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/sportif-importer-chicago

  • Dirk Portage Park

    Tracy, there's a Las Tablas across from the Patio? I thought it was at Lamon.

  • Tracy Rowan Author and life-long Chicago resident

    Nope, Dirk. South side of Irving, a couple of doors from Austin. Nice place, nice food. Cash only, at least last time I was there.

  • Hendu Stuck in a condo in Belmont Gardens

    Cash-only doesn't bother me too much, as long as it's not an expensive place...I always try to have some cash on me because the only time I get rounds on the house from bartenders is when I'm paying cash. It's definitely not an ideal situation for restaurants to be cash-only though. They lose a lot of impulse pop-ins.

    Anyway, the Mrs. and I live a mile south down Cicero. We've never been to the Lomas Verdes (so many better MX options closer to us), but before/after shows at the Portage we've definitely dropped money at Hats-Plus, the newsstand, Sears, Jewel, etc. Without the Portage, it's going to be just another desolate stretch of Milwaukee we rarely visit. Which would be a major, major shame. It's nice having an up-and-coming neighborhood and a cool entertainment venue we can easily walk to.

  • Hendu Stuck in a condo in Belmont Gardens

    By the way, my wife has a travel blog (jettingaround.com) and she's arranged to interview Dennis and take some pics/video for a story on the importance of the Portage as a destination.

  • Inactive user

    TIF money isn't really "our money," as in what homeowners and businesses outside the TIF district pay. They simply take the taxes paid by the taxpayers within the district and use them solely within the district rather than paying into the general funds. People outside the district will pay higher taxes than they would otherwise to make up the lost revenue to CPS etc. but that is not the same thing.

  • I Heart PPark I Heart Portage Park and love the quirky stuff..

    I think the place across from The Patio is Las Tarascas.. http://m.yelp.com/biz/las-tarascas-restaurant-chicago..

  • if the foundation buys the property as a non-profit, then the property tax revenue will be lost, since non-profits don't pay property taxes.
    Also how long will it take to set up the foundation ? and who will manage and maintain the apartments and the stores which are all part of the property ?

    details, details....

  • Tracy Rowan Author and life-long Chicago resident

    Damn, that was a brain fart on my part. I Heart PPark is right, it is Las Tarascas. Sorry.

  • Inactive user

    Great idea John Garrido! Additionally, the city could structure the deal similar to the deal they struck with Experimur for 3.7M - where they would take a % of the profits above a certain amount and/or if the foundation ever sold the building. According to the clerk's office it was passed pretty quickly. Request was made on 12/12/2011 http://tinyurl.com/ExperimurPDF. Perhaps it could be structured so any profits above that agreed to amount could go back into our tax basis to offset the taxes lost.

    O2012-90 Ordinance Passed

    Intro date: 1/18/2012 Passed date: 2/15/2012

    Mayor Redevelopment agreement for Experimur Properties, LLC http://preview.tinyurl.com/CityCouncilExperimur

    Crain's Article Quote: "The city is making a bet on Experimur’s future with what city officials call a “unique profit-sharing concept.” The city would receive 10% of the company’s profits above an unspecified amount, according to the report. If the company is sold, the city would receive 10% of the sale price,after customary deductions such as taxes and depreciation, the report says.

    The profit provisions “are there to provide an opportunity for the city to recoup the initial financial assistance in the event the company outperforms expectations or is acquired by a larger company,” said a spokesman for the housing department"

  • John Garrido Gladstone Park resident, Attorney, Police Officer

    @Cassie, if the church gets the property it's off the tax rolls too. Which would be better for the neighborhood. Who will run it? That's were people like you come in with more ideas. It can be set up pretty quickly too. Maybe the foundation hires a management company to take care of the apartments and store leases.

    You guys can take this any way you want, it's simply another idea.

    And Jake, yes, TIF money is OUR money. Tax dollars are also OUR money. It's money taken from us and spent by the government. So again, I think it's a great idea to spend OUR money on the theater.

  • Inactive user

    You clearly don't understand TIFs. But it's good to hear from our local Oberweis.

  • Tracy Rowan Author and life-long Chicago resident
  • John Garrido Gladstone Park resident, Attorney, Police Officer

    This was suggested by someone on another thread as a way to keep the building on the tax rolls, but use it for a foundation.

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/501

    501(c)(2) might be the way to go:

    (2) Corporations organized for the exclusive purpose of holding title to property, collecting income therefrom, and turning over the entire amount thereof, less expenses, to an organization which itself is exempt under this section.

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