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Only One Austin TIF Project Completed in Decade, AustinTalks Finds

Austin's Coca-Cola facility at 1401 N. Cicero Ave.-- the only TIF project completed over the last decade.

By AustinTalks

Chicago’s tax-increment financing program is designed to eradicate blight, create jobs and promote economic development in neighborhoods that need it most.

But TIF –  which diverts property tax dollars to private developers in an effort to spur growth – appears to be doing little to help the residents of Austin.

Of the 184 private-sector TIF projects authorized in Chicago since 2000, just four were for Austin — one of the city’s more economically distressed neighborhoods and its most-populated community area.

A searchable map ChicagoTalks published earlier this year shows more than half of the nearly 200 private-sector TIF projects approved citywide between Jan. 1, 2000, and July 30, 2010, are clustered in or near the Loop.

Few if any projects can be found in many of Chicago’s most blighted communities on the West and South Sides. And many of those projects haven’t been completed – if started at all.

We’re curating our TIF reporting in

That’s true in Austin, where only one of the four projects approved over the last decade has met the legal terms in agreements signed with city development officials. (See related story here) And that one project has created few jobs for residents of the distressed neighborhood, a four-month investigation by AustinTalks has found.

The project — a Coca-Cola distribution facility at 1401 N. Cicero Ave. in the 37th Ward — employed just 28 people who live in or near Austin. That’s 10 percent of  the 244 total people employed in 2009, according to job-monitoring documents the company submitted to the Chicago Housing and Economic Development Department, which oversees the TIF program.

The documents included those 244 worker’s names and zip codes. Twenty-five jobs came from three zip codes — 60639, 60651 and 60707 — that include Austin as well as other Chicago neighborhoods and Elmwood Park. Three jobs came from 60644, located solely in Austin.

The most current job-monitoring documents obtained from the city are for 2010 and do not include zip codes, so it’s impossible to determine how many workers now come from the Austin area; Coca-Cola declined to provide this information to AustinTalks.

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