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MillerCoors Chicago HQ An Example of Poor TIF Planning

March 29, 2009
Headquarters of MillerCoors LLC

Headquarters of MillerCoors LLC

Ben Joravsky has an insightful article in the Chicago Reader about MillerCoors recent move to Chicago and how the city’s ubiquitous TIF districts may not be working in the way that they’re supposed to.

According to the city, the $6 million TIF subsidy represents about 27 percent of the $21.8 million MillerCoors will spend to rehabilitate their space. The project overview does not explain why it will cost that much to rebuild a structure that was rebuilt only two years ago—without any TIF assistance, which highlights the lack of analysis in the city plan of why this rehab qualifies for help. It’s hard to see a Fortune 500 company that made a $54 million profit the last three months of 2008 as a hardship case.

Perhaps the argument is that without the $24 million in public dollars MillerCoors wouldn’t have moved to Chicago in the first place. But so what? Who actually stands to gain from this deal?

Well, clearly MillerCoors. And it’s also a good deal for AEW, which no longer has to worry about filling up its space. And the Walgreens and Panera Bread on the ground floor will probably pick up some new customers.

Thankfully, Milwaukee is much more judicious in it’s creation of TIF districts and open about their performance.   Still, at a time when we’re trying to put together a viable 2010 budget it’s important to consider that the development in many areas of the city that have experienced significant growth in recent years as a result of TIF districts have not yet begun to yield additional revenue to the city or provide any tax relief to its citizens.  That will change as these districts expire, but 18 years (the average length of a TID per DCD) is a long time to wait for relief.

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