WBEZ | industrial land http://www.wbez.org/tags/industrial-land Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en How open is the Millennium Reserve 'open space' project? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/how-open-millennium-reserve-open-space-project-105925 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/24831034@N08/8303625555/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/powdhorn%20via%20flickr.jpg" style="height: 365px; width: 610px;" title="Powderhorn Lake, a Forest Preserve holding in the Millennium Reserve Calumet Core area. (Courtesy ✿Low✿ via Flickr)" /></a></p><p>During <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/governor-greenlights-funding-nations-largest-open-space-project-105857">his announcement Friday that federal and state agencies would commit an additional $6.8 million towards Millennium Reserve projects</a>, Gov. Pat Quinn repeated the claim that the massive Southeast Side restoration initiative constituted the &ldquo;<a href="http://www3.illinois.gov/PressReleases/ShowPressRelease.cfm?SubjectID=2&amp;RecNum=10970">largest open space project in the country</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>While it is undoubtedly ambitious, and unique in a few ways, the &ldquo;open space&rdquo; project is not exactly that. After all, the initial project area (the &ldquo;Calumet Core&rdquo;) is home to nearly half a million people, as well as 2,000 acres of industrial land.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Natural Resources prefers the more accurate, admittedly less sexy, term &ldquo;one of the largest collaborative urban open space projects&rdquo; in the country.</p><p>At 140,000 acres, the Calumet Core certainly is a huge tract of land. Open space holdings in that area, however, only total about 15,000 acres. That includes Indian Ridge Marsh, the Burnham Greenway, and other high-profile projects.</p><p>About 60 percent of that open space land is owned by the Cook County Forest Preserve District. The Chicago Park District recently acquired more than 680 acres in the Calumet area from the city, which it plans to convert into open lands.</p><p>The <a href="http://www2.illinois.gov/gov/millennium-reserve/Documents/Maps/Calumet%20Core%20and%20Expansion%20Area.pdf">expansion zone</a>, Millennium Reserve&rsquo;s long-term target area, includes another 18,000 acres of &ldquo;<a href="http://www2.illinois.gov/gov/millennium-reserve/Pages/numbers.aspx">high-quality natural areas</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>Urban growth <a href="http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0009509">has long reduced open land in and around cities</a>, and Chicago ranks <a href="http://persquaremile.com/2011/01/27/parkland-per-person-in-the-united-states/">at or near the bottom</a>, <a href="http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/programs/hd/Special%20Reports/OpenSpaceReport.pdf">depending</a> on methodology, of parkland per capita.</p><p>&ldquo;The significance of it being an urban project is that people have the best opportunity to become connected to the outdoors in the places most easily accessible to them, such as where they live,&rdquo; said John Rogner, chairman of the Millennium Reserve Initiative steering committee that Quinn unveiled Friday.</p><p>Several cities and counties around the country have large urban open space projects &mdash; <a href="http://www.godowntownbaltimore.com/docs/openspaceplan.pdf">Baltimore</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cityofmadison.com/parks/about/documents/2012-2017AdoptedPOSPSmallFileSize.pdf">Madison</a>, Wisc., and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.eng.hctx.net/pdf/park_plan_2.pdf">Harris County, Texas</a>, for example&nbsp;&mdash; but unlike the Millennium Reserve they are strictly city- or county-led.&nbsp;</p><p>By partnering governments and civilian organizations, Rogner said, the Millennium Reserve team may be able to more quickly acquire new land than conservation groups would be independently.</p><p>Larger projects consolidating and connecting open space exist in the U.S., but they don&rsquo;t share the Millennium Reserve&rsquo;s urban focus. Plans to conserve land in Pennsylvania&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.dvrpc.org/OpenSpace/network.htm">Delaware Valley</a>, and in the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.farmland.org/programs/states/documents/ConservingGreenNetwork.pdf">Washington-Baltimore</a>&nbsp;metro area, focus on rural greenways and, apart from their emphasis on farmland, might be considered more traditionally conservationist projects than Millennium Reserve.</p><p><a href="http://open2100.org/">Seattle&rsquo;s Open Space 2100 plan</a> is both collaborative and urban. It took the form of a generalized plan, however, while Millennium Reserve is, according to the department of natural resources&rsquo; Lisa Cotner, &ldquo;an on-going initiative to make on-the-ground projects happen.&rdquo;</p><p>What these other projects really illustrate about the Millennium Reserve is how wide-ranging its goals are &mdash; industrial resurgence, economic development, recreation and ecological restoration all share top-billing with open space, depending on who you talk to.&nbsp;The broad scope may help clear the path for action by the project&rsquo;s more than 50 partner organizations, but it&rsquo;s also likely to foster some disputes over just what the &ldquo;open space&rdquo; project is all about.</p></p> Thu, 07 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/how-open-millennium-reserve-open-space-project-105925 Evanston favors vacant lot over school http://www.wbez.org/story/evanston-favors-vacant-lot-over-school-92297 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-21/IMAG0148.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Communities are having a problem with vacant properties in this recession.&nbsp;They’re struggling to generate tax revenues, properties are deteriorating with neglect, and neighboring property values are plummeting.&nbsp;Most towns are scrambling to find new tenants for these buildings: businesses, homeowners, anyone.</p><p>But that’s not always the case in north suburban Evanston.&nbsp;When it comes to empty industrial land, the city’s actually turning down offers.&nbsp;It’s hoping that manufacturers will return someday.</p><p>DAVIS: Let’s walk around, okay?</p><p>Moshe Davis has found his dream. It’s a dark, damp, abandoned building in southwest Evanston.</p><p>DAVIS: As you walk over here, walk on the right.</p><p>You have to side-step puddles of standing water in the building's corridors.</p><p>Davis is chair of the Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov elementary school on Chicago’s North Side. It’s an Orthodox Jewish private school. A few years ago the school’s board bought this old building. It used to be an audio electronics company.</p><p>DAVIS: This is where the deliveries would have come and that kind of stuff. And in my mind I see over here a basketball court or two, and that kind of thing, a gym, maybe, or something like that.</p><p>Davis thinks this property is perfect for Joan Dachs’s boys school. The school’s facilities in Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood are cramped.&nbsp;When the board bought the property in Evanston, Davis knew they were taking a gamble. The property is designated for industrial use, but the board believed Evanston would change that.</p><p>First, the building had sat on the market for years. Second, Davis says industry has been fleeing Evanston, moving to other suburbs. And, who wouldn’t want a bustling, healthy school to revitalize an empty shell?</p><p>DAVIS: We see it as a blight on the community, the vacancy of this building.</p><p>And in the remote possibility that Evanston would not change the property’s zoning, so what?</p><p>DAVIS: We'll do a cost analysis, we sell the property, no problem. And quite frankly, we would have sold the property.</p><p>Yeah. That was 2006, when you <em>could</em> sell property. But Davis never imagined what would come next. Evanston refused to change the zoning, and the real estate market fell apart. Davis can’t sell the property now, even though he's tried.&nbsp;</p><p>DAVIS: As businessmen I don’t think any of us have encountered this kind of resistance. It’s the kind of thing that’s ... not just not rational. We can’t figure it out.</p><p>Five years after buying it, Joan Dachs has sunk millions of dollars into purchase and maintenance. Davis has spent tens of thousands on property taxes. And, Joan Dachs students still attend class in their crowded Chicago facility.</p><p>The school has filed a lawsuit against Evanston.</p><p>SIEGEL: On principle, it just seemed to me that Evanston should continue to have areas available for tax-yielding, light industrial uses.</p><p>This is Jack Siegel. Siegel used to be Evanston’s attorney, and he handled the city’s side of this case when it started.</p><p>I talked to him because Evanston officials wouldn’t comment to me about this case, since it’s still in court. Siegel says Evanston officials always considered tax ramifications of land use applications. He says Evanston has to.</p><p>SIEGEL:&nbsp;Without doing a scientific investigation, I would think that Evanston probably has a greater percentage of its land devoted to exempt purposes than any other municipality in the Chicago area.</p><p>Siegel puts that percentage at 45 percent. In other words, nearly half of Evanston’s land is used by religious, non-profit or educational institutions that don’t have to pay property taxes.</p><p>That’s not an issue for other suburbs.</p><p>SIEGEL: In the 60s and the 70s, Arlington Heights and Schaumburg, like so many other communities in particular the Northwest and Southwest suburbs, were expanding, because there was so much unincorporated land. Evanston has been landlocked forever.</p><p>Evanston has a workaround: It’s called “payment in lieu of taxes.” It’s a sum of money that tax-exempt landholders agree to give the city voluntarily. Not taxes, exactly, but maybe close to what taxes would be if the land were owned by a business or a resident.</p><p>Moshe Davis says the school is ready to negotiate something like that. But Evanston isn’t interested. That’s because if the city allows the land to be used for a tax-exempt purposes ... it’ll stay that way forever —&nbsp;even if the school one day decides to leave Evanston.</p><p>Attorney Jack Siegel says keeping the land vacant is better than putting a school on it. He says Evanston shouldn’t give up on the idea that industry will come back. And he isn’t the only one who thinks that.</p><p>Evanston resident Michelle Hays lives 1.5 miles away from the property. But she testified at a planning commission meeting in 2008 because she feels the issue directly affects her.</p><p>HAYS: Just because it’s vacant doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the potential to become a viable commercial property at some point.</p><p>Hays says she understands that the property couldn’t be sold to an industrial tenant. But we’ve been in a recession. Hays says when the economy recovers, maybe an industrial tenant will come along.&nbsp;And for Hays it’s not just about losing part of Evanston’s tax base. She says there are other benefits of keeping Evanston’s few remaining industrial districts set aside for those purposes.</p><p>HAYS: Right around the corner is one of the poorest census areas in Evanston, and those people need jobs. And very often, commercial entities are the ones that provide jobs for the very, very low-income, unskilled people in Evanston.</p><p>Hays says she doesn’t have anything against the Joan Dachs school coming to Evanston. The problem, she says, is how the school board went about it: buying first and then assuming the city would change the zoning for the school’s needs. Hays says Evanston is the sort of place where residents expect to have input on those kinds of matters —&nbsp;right from the beginning.</p><p><em>Music Button: Band of Frequencies, "The Pass", from the CD Under The Sun OST, (Ubiquity)</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 22 Sep 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/evanston-favors-vacant-lot-over-school-92297