City council approves three TIF requests totaling $305,000

The Springfield City Council approved three requests for TIF funds totaling $305,000 on Tuesday.

Approval of the requests paves the way for a restaurant to open in Enos Park and for a spa and a long-awaited children's museum to open downtown.

Jerome Taylor, owner of MJ's Fish & Chicken, requested $55,000 in TIF funds from the Enos Park TIF to purchase the property at 716 E. Enos St. The purchase would allow Taylor's Parvenir Group LLC to open a permanent location for his restaurant. The property was previously purchased with TIF funds by Enos Park Development LLC and held the former Suzie Q's restaurant.

Aldermen approved Taylor's TIF request by a 9-1 vote, with Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin voting opposed. Before the vote, McMenamin suggested reducing the TIF award to $20,000, in keeping with the amount available under a previously approved program meant to encourage first responders to move to Enos Park. Karen Davis, director of the city's Office of Planning and Economic Development, told the council that the TIF award constitutes 50 percent of the property purchase cost, which she said is consistent with previous awards to businesses. McMenamin expressed concern about the award, as well as another award approved later, citing a belief that TIF money should be used for rehabilitation.

"I believe we're making a mistake going down, offering solely acquisition assistance for the purchase of property," he said. "I think it props up the fair market value instead of letting the market determine what the fair market value would be for the building."

Ward 4 Ald. John Fulgenzi questioned the 50-percent funding ratio, saying he thought the threshold was 35 percent funding. Davis said the threshold for development downtown has been 50 percent and noted that the Enos Park is a neighborhood TIF instead of a commercial TIF. Some projects have even been funded at 100 percent, she said.

In a separate request, Springfield developer Chris Nickell asked the city council to approve $120,000 for the purchase of the building at 521 E. Washington St., which formerly held the National Museum of Surveying. Nickell's 521 East LLC would own the building and rent space to a spa and salon owner. The building would also host cosmetology classes.

The city council approved the request 9-1, with McMenamin voting opposed.

Aldermen also approved an additional $130,000 in TIF funds for Children's Museum Foundation Corporation, which is working to open a downtown children's museum called Kidzeum at 412, 414 and 416 E. Adams St. The award approved Tuesday brings the total TIF amount for Kidzeum to more than $1.1 million and provides the group additional time to complete redevelopment from the current deadline of Sept. 30, 2016. TIF money for Kidzeum was first approved in June 2013.

Before the vote, McMenamin suggested separating the additional funding and additional time into separate ordinances. McMenamin's proposal failed 6-4. The council's vote on the TIF award was 8-2, with McMenamin and Ward 1 Ald. Chuck Redpath voting opposed.

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