Talking SSA: Member of SSA committee details advantages

Staff Writer

The advisory board for the proposed 53rd Street Special Services Area met on Thursday, Feb. 21 to discuss potential boundaries for the area, and spending priorities should the levy be approved.

“We didn’t come to any conclusions or any decisions,” said Wendy Walker Williams, executive director of the South East Chicago Commission.

During last spring’s 53rd Street visioning workshops, it was suggested that an SSA could help fund additional street beautification services like CleanSlate as well as marketing and business development programs that should hopefully bring more people to shop along the corridor.

“We started to discuss what the boundaries of the SSA could be and we talked about the priorities of the different programs that an SSA can provide,” Williams said. “What’s the importance of advertising and promotion? How do we feel about public way maintenance? How much should we put aside for tenant attraction, parking and safety programs? There are many, many things that an SSA is able to fund.”

The SSA Advisory Board, made up of community stakeholders, will meet privately until April, when it is required to hold a minimum of two public meetings to receive input.

SSAs are additional property taxes that a community levies to itself, much like a tax increment financing district. The additional property taxes can be used to facilitate business development along a corridor. There are over 50 SSAs across the city.

“[SSAs are] the reason that business corridors have special trash cans and banners and holiday decorations and way finding signage and awning rebate programs and additional public safety and on-street parking management. Everything that it takes to properly manage your business district, there’s so many wonderful benefits to it,” Williams said.

Alexis Bouteville, owner of Hyde Park Records, 1377 E. 53rd St., was not aware that an SSA may be coming to the district and potentially raise the property tax on his store. But he said he would support it, if it meant extra business along the corridor.
“If it’s not like something dramatically expensive, if it’s made in the purpose of improving the neighborhood and making it more friendly somehow, or safe, I think it’s a good thing. Improvement in the neighborhood is always a good thing,” Bouteville said.