It Takes a Village to Develop a Vibrant Downtown

Michael Freilinger, Downtown Development Corporation of Peoria

The road to establishing a Downtown Peoria SSA has been a long, winding path that has evolved along the way. The Downtown Development Corporation of Peoria (DDC) has held many meetings with businesses, stakeholders and public entities to solicit feedback, thereby crafting the best plan that provides the most benefits to Downtown Peoria. We believe that establishing an SSA for a designated area in Downtown Peoria is critical to its future growth and development.

We were pleased that many business and property owners attended these meetings to share valuable thoughts and concerns and ask questions about the process. Based on the feedback we received, the original proposal has been amended. If you attended one of these meetings, we thank you for your time and commitment to Downtown Peoria. If you were unable to attend, we would like to share some of those questions and answers below. The DDC welcomes your thoughts and ideas!

What is an SSA?
Special Service Areas (SSAs) were first established in Toronto, Canada, in 1970 in response to the establishment of mall shopping centers. Downtown businesses needed a way to compete with the services that malls were providing through their Common Area Maintenance (CAM) charges. Today, SSAs are used in downtowns to enhance the experience of visiting and working downtown. Most cities the size of Peoria have SSAs as one of the components to redevelop the downtown.

What services are provided by an SSA?
The DDC Taskforce has recommended that the SSA provide sidewalk power washing, trash pickup along the streets, gutters and sidewalks, landscaping maintenance/beautification, seasonal decorations, light pole banners, external directories, marketing, an events calendar, and an enhanced website for the downtown.

Why isn’t the City of Peoria already providing these services, if they are necessary?
The largest expenditures the City makes are for police and fire protection. Most of the services proposed for the SSA are currently not being provided by the City of Peoria, or will expand services and increase the level of services.

How is an SSA established?
A property owner in the boundaries of the proposed SSA must submit a petition to the City to establish an SSA. The City must hold a public hearing. The property owners and electors within the SSA have an opportunity to petition the City against establishing an SSA if there is opposition. The City may not establish an SSA if 51 percent of both property owners and electors (residents within the proposed district) of the SSA sign a petition to oppose it. If no petition in opposition is filed, the City Council is free to decide whether to establish an SSA.

How is an SSA funded?
The most common ways of funding SSAs are sales taxes and property assessments. The current proposal recommends a property assessment of 65/1,000ths percent, or 0.00065 times the taxable assessed value of real property within the boundaries of the proposed SSA. The property assessment for a $1 million building (market value) with a taxable assessed value of $333,333 would equal $216.67 per year. For a $300,000 building (market value) with a taxable assessed value of $100,000, that figure would be $65 per year.

Are the property assessments part of the Tax Increment Financing (TIF)?
The Taskforce is recommending that the property assessment be outside of the TIF.

Must tax-exempt properties pay a property tax assessment?
The Taskforce is recommending that we not assess tax-exempt properties, but rather enter into a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT). This would be an agreement that is voluntarily entered into between the tax-exempt property owner and the SSA.

Will the local government pay a PILOT?
In most cities that have SSAs supporting the downtown, the local governments do contribute through non-general funds. The Taskforce has recommended that both the City and the County contribute to the SSA through a PILOT.

Who pays the SSA assessments?
The property tax assessment is assessed only on property within the SSA boundaries.

What are the SSA boundaries?
The boundaries are as follows: MacArthur Highway on the south, the Illinois River on the east, Jefferson Avenue and Hightower on the west, Wayne Street on the north, and including the medical complexes of UnityPoint and OSF Saint Francis.

How long are these taxes going to be collected?
The Taskforce recommends a five-year term for the community to evaluate the services. To reauthorize the SSA, the DDC and City of Peoria would have to go through the same process that is taking place right now before the SSA would be extended.

Does the SSA pay for the DDC’s operating costs?
No, the current proposal does not include the DDC’s operating costs. The SSA budget includes a six-percent administrative allocation to assist with operating costs for the DDC to administer the SSA program. There are no staff positions funded by the SSA; all the services will be provided by contracted services.

Who makes decisions about the SSA once it is established?
The proposal identifies the DDC as the governing body, with a proposed Advisory Commission of 13 seats making recommendations about services and budget, and recommends contracting with the City to serve as fiscal agent having responsibility for holding and disbursing the SSA funds. The SSA funds would be segregated and audited.

Will the Advisory Commission meetings be open to the public?
Unless otherwise required by the City or state law, the Advisory Commission will open all its meetings to the public and allow for public comment, but will not be subject itself to open meeting and records acts to allow more flexibility in scheduling meetings, setting the agenda and using executive session. iBi

The DDC welcomes your thoughts and ideas, and can be reached at info@downtownpeoria.org or by phone at (309) 369-6038.

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