Action Party uncomfortable with Information Revealed about Prairie View Plaza
Village President DiMaria apparently took issue with the Independent Candidates for Morton Grove revealing the lack of interest shown by the village in redeveloping Prairie View Plaza under DiMaria’s leadership, in a letter posted on Patch March 9. He did show that, indeed, the owners of Prairie View had reached out to the Village many times in the past four years to try to start a redevelopment project. And they even had a number of potential tenants lined up through the years that would have brought new shopping choices, including a grocery store, to Morton Grove.
However, the project never got started under DIMaria’s leadership. A TIF was originally set up in 2012 primarily to revitalize that very shopping center. This is exactly how the money should be used, and there was nothing wrong or improper about the shopping center requesting TIF assistance to be used in this way on a project that would have huge benefits for Morton Grove. In fact, it is to be expected, and should even be offered by the village in order to spur development. Why wouldn’t the village want to invest in this project? But, DiMaria chose an interesting word to characterize the shopping center’s request for TIF assistance… demanding,” when they are just asking for assistance that was set up for that very purpose. Not a very good way to try to build a relationship and get a project going to benefit the whole community. Instead, he seems to be trying to run them out of town.
Yet, DiMaria and his Action Party were very willing to offer millions to other projects. In his letter, DiMaria stated he offered Meijer’s $9 million to come to Morton Grove, but he couldn’t close the deal. He also offered incentives to Jewel, but couldn’t close that deal either. Why offer millions in incentives, more than Prairie View wanted, so single stores, when we could have had an entire shopping mall completely rebuilt with new stores, for less village money, yet more return in the long run?
But DiMaria and his new Action Party did find other projects to spend your money on. A comparison of the numbers:
- Luxury apartments on Waukegan was given $6.9 million in TIF assistance, or 15.5% of the project (luxury apartments may be a hard sell with a declining shopping center across the street)
- Moretti’s restaurant was given a loan for $636,000 to cover TIF expenses. If Moretti’s stays in business for 20 years, the loan is forgiven. And, the mortgage on the $1.25 million land sale would be forgiven if Moretti’s stayed in business for 15 years. Plus, the village paid $300,000 to clean up the contaminated soil (because DiMaria didn’t do basic due diligence when the Village purchased the property in the first place.)
- Prairie View requested $7.5 million, or 12% of their project from the TIF that was established in order to redevelop Prairie View.
Out of those three, which do you think would bring the greatest benefit to the people of Morton Grove? Luxury apartments, or a thriving shopping center? Another pizza restaurant, or a mall with potentially a grocery store, fitness center, craft store, dollar store, clothing store, and pet store, all of which expressed interest in locating to Prairie View. These would all be great stores and businesses for Morton Grove. The Independent Candidates of Morton Grove believe strongly that Prairie View Plaza must a top priority in our community’s economic development and future.
What could it have been to draw the attention of the Action Party away from Prairie View and to luxury apartments and a single restaurant? Perhaps Trustee Grear said it best, as quoted in a March 19, 2015 Champion article, when he said about the apartments, “It’s going to bring a new type of person into Morton Grove.” The Independent Candidates ask Trustee Grear and the Action Party, what’s wrong with the type of people who are already in Morton Grove? Why work so hard to bring in a “new type of person”?
Or, perhaps in this Pay-to-Play culture that permeates our current administration, it was the political donations that both the apartment building developer and Moretti’s made to the Action Party (this information is available on the Action Party’s D-2 statements to the Illinois Board of Election). It is this pattern of political donations that raise questions about whether these were the best deals for the village.
So we have a pizza restaurant and luxury apartments. No grocery store, clothing store, or other places to shop and eat, yet the village spent millions. This Action is not good for Morton Grove