Southwestern Illinois TIF Success Stories
Columbia hosts Illinois Tax Increment Association Spring Conference
By ALAN J. ORTBALS
Columbia will be the smallest community ever to host the Illinois Tax Increment Association when the organization holds its spring conference there April 8-10 but it offers a great opportunity for visitors to learn about exemplary programs. The city of approximately 9,800 will showcase its model tax increment finance district and will also offer attendees the chance to tour what may be the state’s most unusual district—all underground.
Formerly blighted property along Illinois Route 3 in Columbia has blossomed since the City of Columbia and other local taxing districts authorized the use of TIF for the area in 1995.The intersection of Admiral Parkway (Illinois Route 3) and Valmeyer Road has assumed a new look as the Admiral Parkway Redevelopment Area helped spur developments ranging from the world headquarters for Maverick Technologies to a 77-room Hampton Inn hotel to a 33-acre urban park.
According to Paul Ellis, Columbia’s director of community and economic development, the city’s TIF program has garnered statewide admiration and a reputation for “best practice” operation. The Falls Conference & Reception Center, located within the district, will be the host site for the conference.
TIF districts have a life-span of 23 years so only a few years remain for Columbia’s district. While it is possible to extend them for another 12 years, Ellis says there are no plans to do so.
“We’ve explored an extension with our City Council and with our Joint Review Board which is the made up of the other districts, but we’ve concluded that there’s no need to do it,” Ellis said. “It’s been very successful and we’ve gotten just about everything done in fewer years than we thought.”
Ellis said work remains to be done on the Admiral Trost Development Park. The park property, a 33-acre parcel virtually in the center of the Admiral Parkway Redevelopment Area, was donated to the City in 2007 for development of a municipal park. The parcel appeared to hold little commercial value due to its location almost entirely within a flood plain. The master plan included a proactive approach to address existing storm water issues on the park site and downstream of the park property as well as improvements ranging from wetland enhancements to a fitness trail.
ITIA conference attendees will also be afforded the opportunity to participate in a mobile workshop held in Illinois’ most unusual TIF district. Located in the Mississippi bluffs near Valmeyer, 13 miles south of Columbia, the Rock City complex offers more than five million square feet of commercial space within an underground limestone quarry. Rock City is owned by the Village of Valmeyer and developed by Admiral Parkway, Inc. of Columbia. The climate-controlled, secure facility currently hosts Gateway Cold Storage and the National Archives & Records Administration.