SSA detailed: Proposal may increase taxes by 40 percent

Staff Writer

The proposed 53rd Street special service area would largely overlap with the tax increment financing district, but if approved would have a huge affect on tax bills for those businesses and residences.

An SSA would initially add .65 percent to the tax base from which the property’s tax bill is calculated. But it could add as much as .95 percent to the tax base. That small percentage could create a much bigger tax bill for the business owners and residents.
If a property had a tax rate that initially charged 1.5 percent, an additional .65 percent SSA tax would raise the amount of that property’s tax bill by 2.15 percent. A property valued at $500,000 would pay $7,500 in taxes without the SSA and $10,750 with the additional tax.

The SSA would primarily exist on 53rd Street between Woodlawn Avenue and 5307 S. Hyde Park Blvd., and Lake Park Avenue between 5130 S. Lake Park Ave. and 5500 S. Lake Park Ave. and along Harper Avenue between 52nd and 53rd streets.

The proposed area covers largely commercial properties but it does include three strictly residential buildings and 17 mixed-use buildings.

“The average residential condo would [pay] about $22 a month or $270 per year,” said Dave Cocagne, of Vermillion Development, who sits on the SSA advisory board. Residents who live within the SSA would be served by the area, with services like snow removal and street beautification.

“I am not a business person. I’m a condo owner … It’s increasing our tax bill by almost $300. For us, as homeowners, it means nothing,” said Rene Pomerleau, a resident of a condo building at 53rd Street and Cornell Avenue representing an organization called Necessary Collateral Damage. “I’m a Chicagoan. I’ve been here a long time. I’m not asking for an exception, I’m asking for creativity.”

An SSA needs to occupy a contiguous string of properties, so to get as far as the Del Prado building, 5307 S. Hyde Park Blvd., and the business inside it, the residential buildings needed to be included.

“The average commercial building [will pay] about $4,000 a year in incremental taxes,” Cocagne said. Vermillion will operate Harper Court once it opens this summer. Harper Court is expected to pay about an extra $130,000 per year to the SSA.
The SSA would operate with a budget of $299,496. That budget would then be spent on advertising and promoting 53rd Street as a business corridor, street beautification and snow removal. A large portion of the annual budget would be dedicated to alleviating Hyde Park’s parking problem.

“The truth of the matter is, there’s nothing the SSA can do about the parking, it’s baked in,” said advisory committee member Sue Freehling, owner of Freehling Pot and Pan Co., 1365 E. 53rd St.

Alds. Will Burns (4th) and Leslie Hairston (5th) were both on hand to support the proposal.

“There are a lot of very bright people in Hyde Park, I think that’s one of Hyde Park’s claims to fame. I have no doubt that we can’t figure out a way to address these issues using the SSA,” Burns said.

Other SSAs within the city have used their money to construct and operate parking garages, valet services and rent nearby church or school parking lots during hours when those buildings are unlikely to use them.

The next 53rd Street SSA meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday May 30 at Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave. inside the small theater.