KANKAKEE — Although there likely will be many hurdles to cross, the first one has been cleared for the proposed Kankakee riverfront development.
On Monday, by a series of three 10-2 votes, the Kankakee City Council approved the creation of a 293-acre Tax Increment Financing district, a redevelopment plan and the project area for the Kankakee Riverfront Project.
In short, the ambitious plan, driven by Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong, is to create a recreational/entertainment/business environment in and along the Kankakee River through southern and western portions of the city.
Now the project moves to its next phase: Securing developers and investors.
After the meeting, the mayor had a smile across her face when discussing the council’s action and what impact this development could have on the city.
“This will bring the development forward,” she said of the TIF. She said developers and investors are showing interest in this project.
“This makes for a stronger case. We are moving Kankakee forward,” she said.
The Wells-Armstrong administration is placing a significant amount of its political capital on the Riverfront project. The Riverfront plan is being eyed as a way to develop retail and recreation along a nearly five-mile stretch of the river.
If all goes as planned by the design group and the city administration, about $30 million to $50 million eventually could be invested over a 20- to 30-year period as a result of this riverfront plan.
The plan has been headed by Hitchcock Design Group, a Naperville-based company.
The goal is to infuse Kankakee will new development focused around the Kankakee River, a resource many believe has been underutilized as a driver of recreational and entertainment development.
The idea behind this plan is to make the nearly five-mile stretch of Kankakee River running through Kankakee from the South Schuyler Avenue bridge at East River Street to Riverside Medical Center a regional attraction, as well as an economic engine.
But before any shovel hits the ground, the city administration was committed to creating a TIF district here as a way to help spur investment.
A TIF district is a public financing method for a designated area in which development is being sought. The creation of a TIF district allows a municipality to collect increased property taxes from that designated area and set the money aside for potential development or improvements in the area which it was collected.
A TIF district has a lifespan of 23 years.