How a Cozy Illinois Town Rejuvenated Its Unsightly Downtown Buildings
Just look around downtown Chillicothe and you’ll see evidence of what the Tax Increase Funding District has done for the town.
Amanda Beadles, Director of Economic Development for Chillicothe, may report redevelopments at Chillicothe’s Bacon Building, Tinker Shack, Stems by Allison, Cranberry Creek, Little Shop of Hoarders and many other locations due to the special property tax area designed to stimulate economic development.
As TIF draws to a close after 23 years, she says it has been essential to bring more than just residents to Chillicothe, a community of around 6,000.
“If it weren’t for the TIF, there would be nothing to do with this building,” Beadles said. “Now we have a new business here, a new business there, apartments.”
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How TIF Impacted Chillicothe
The ultimate goal of the improvements to downtown Chillicothe was not only to make it a more attractive place for residents to shop and eat, but also to make it a destination for out-of-town shoppers. the city.
About 80% of sales that occur in downtown Chillicothe come from people from out of town, Beadles said.
At Odie’s in downtown Chillicothe, manager Sherry Aescliman said she has attracted customers from Chicago, Champaign and out of state.
This is one of many places downtown that has undergone a major aesthetic overhaul. The money from the TIF facade will soon be used at Odie’s for new doors and windows at the bistro which has handmade wooden tables and walls made of a mix of original brick and barn cladding.
As the value of properties in a TIF increase, value added tax revenue is set aside and used to make more improvements in a defined area. At the end of a TIF’s lifespan, governments in the region are expected to benefit from a more stable and prosperous region that consistently generates higher tax revenues.
Another major benefit of TIF was keeping Chillicothe town centre’s old buildings alive, such as its theater and the site that now houses Nat’s Place and Molly’s Pizzeria.
“It was an absolutely gorgeous addition and renovation for our city because anyone else would have looked at this and said ‘take it all out,'” Beadles said.
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“We just saw all these other businesses open up around us”
Those TIF facade dollars have transformed Chillicothe from an unsightly town into a place where people want to stop, shop and eat, said Nathan Hood, who painted and repaired eight of the downtown buildings.
“(The TIF) has made Chillicothe clean and more attractive,” Hood said. “People come from out of town, see the improvements, it makes them stop.”
Hood said the buildings that were cleaned and painted were in poor condition before the TIF improvements were made.
Beadles echoed the sentiment: “It makes life good for people passing by and they’re like, ‘Ooh, let’s see what’s in there, let’s buy Chillicothe. “”
Otherwise, downtown is not a natural destination for those passing through, since the main road through the city, Illinois Route 29, is two blocks from the business district.
Alison Murnan is a Chillicothe native and co-owner of Tinker Shack, a store in downtown Chillicothe that sells handmade wood products and has benefited from TIF benefits. She said TIF reinvigorated a city center that had once been dead.
“When I was a kid, Second Street was just busy, busy,” Murnan said. “I used to ride my bike to the Ben Franklin or the library that was right there, the book store, the municipal theater…but it kind of died in the 90s and nobody really came here.
“We just watched all these other businesses open up around us, it was pretty cool,” she added.
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Why the TIF is coming to an end
But the TIF, active in Chillicothe for 23 years, is coming to an end. City tax bodies — city, school district, library district, park district — have not agreed to an extension for four years.
Beadles said she was disappointed with the decision not to extend TIF but understood why it was done.
“I can understand their point of view to say ‘we have already invested for 23 years.’ I can understand the reluctance to want to do… four more years,” Beadles said, noting that by bypassing some annual property tax revenue, “they’ve all made this major investment in our community.”
But the job is not quite finished. City officials are advancing a series of final plans to spend remaining TIF funds before the district expires later this month.
A seawall curb project, street overlays, a stage in the municipal park and a renovation at City Hall are among the projects Chillicothe leaders expect to approve.
“It makes for a beautiful downtown,” Beadles said.