CHICAGO—BOMA/Chicago has come out against theproposed expansion of a Central Loop neighborhood improvementdistrict, which now covers buildings on both sides of State St.,into the East Loop. Officials from the organization, whichrepresents most downtown building owners, say it will createanother tax for owners without providing needed services.

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The City of Chicago contains dozens of suchspecial service areas, and the one along State St., calledSSA #1, is the oldest. The Chicago LoopAlliance, the nonprofit that administers SSA #1, hasproposed a 15-year renewal, beginning in 2015, and an extension ofthe area boundaries to take in properties along Wabash Ave., thewest side of Michigan Ave., and the east side of Michigan north ofRandolph St. and south of the river. If approved by the citycouncil, the owners would pay into a fund that CLA uses to shovelsnow, pressure wash sidewalks, install landscape improvements likeplanters and medians, and install seasonal decorations, among othertasks.

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Officials from CLA say the expansion will help improve the EastLoop, a submarket that has struggled to attract tenants. Accordingto data from US Equities, the vacancy rate, now atabout 16%, has remained largely unchanged since 2006. The alliancewill host a community meeting on Wednesday, May 21, from 8:00 AM to10:00 AM, at University Center Chicago, 525 S.State St. and present their proposal.

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Michael Cornicelli of BOMA/Chicago tellsGlobeSt.com that SSA #1 currently collects about $3 million inannual revenue, and that CLA's new proposal would boost that to atotal of more than $7 million, with some Michigan Ave. ownersseeing a property tax increase of $250,000.

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“We don't see the values of what the Chicago Loop Alliance isproviding and we would like to see the entire SSA expire at the endof 2015. Nearly all of these services are things that our buildingsprovide for themselves. We can do it faster and moreefficiently.”

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He admits that there might be some truth to CLA's contentionthat an SSA can boost the value of certain neighborhoods byproviding general upkeep and disciplining errant property owners.But only nine BOMA/Chicago members lie with the current boundaries,and the expansion will take in about 38 BOMA members, many of whomown valuable class A properties along Michigan Ave. “Our owners andmembers do this for a living.” After a snowstorm, for example, mostwill say, “'I want to have my guy out there and do it up to ourstandards.'”

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Brian J. Rogal

Brian J. Rogal is a Chicago-based freelance writer with years of experience as an investigative reporter and editor, most notably at The Chicago Reporter, where he concentrated on housing issues. He also has written extensively on alternative energy and the payments card industry for national trade publications.