August 2011
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Business District project costs to double if amendment passes

A public hearing will be held at Tuesday evening’s City Council meeting on a proposed amendment to the downtown Hospitality Improvement Zone Business District Development Plan (or HIZ BDD Plan, for short). The amendment consists of these two changes:

  1. Adding Staybridge Suites

    In order to add property to the HIZ BDD Plan, the added property has to qualify as “blighted.” According to state ordinance a “blighted area” is an area

    which, by reason of the predominance of defective, non?existent, or inadequate street layout, unsanitary or unsafe conditions, deterioration of site improvements, improper subdivision or obsolete platting, or the existence of conditions which endanger life or property by fire or other causes, or any combination of those factors, retards the provision of housing accommodations or constitutes an economic or social liability, an economic underutilization of the area, or a menace to the public health, safety, morals, or welfare. [65 ILCS 5/11-74.3-5]

    According to the council communication [note: large PDF file], Staybridge Suites qualifies “due to the deterioration of site improvements which constitutes an economic underutilization of the area.”

    Staybridge Suites was built in 1999 for around $7.5 million. In twelve years, we’re supposed to believe that it’s now “blighted” due to “the deterioration of site improvements”? Well, maybe, if it was built by the same contractor that built Riverfront Village. Still, if this is “blighted,” then every building in the City of Peoria is blighted:

    What passes for "blight" in Peoria

    Looks like a real dump, doesn’t it? It’s worth noting that the council communication does not provide any documentation to substantiate this supposed “deterioration” and “economic underutilization.” It simply makes the claim without any evidence to back it up.

  2. Doubling estimated business district project costs

    This is perhaps the most curious part of the amendment. The amendment increases the total estimated business district project costs from $6 million to $12 million. They’ve also lengthened the list of things on which they can spend that money. Here’s a comparison between the original plan and the proposed amendment:

    Original BDD Plan Amended BDD Plan (Proposed)
    The Business District costs are estimated at $6,000,000 and may include:

    1. Buying and selling of land.
    2. Infrastructure improvements.
    3. Rehabilitation of existing property.
    4. Development costs associated with new taxable private development.
    5. Faรงade and streetscape improvements.
    Business District project costs are estimated at $12,000,000 and may include the following, in accordance with the provisions of the Act:

    1. Cost of studies, surveys, development of plans and specifications, implementation and administration of a business district plan, and personnel and professional service costs.
    2. Property assembly costs.
    3. Site preparation costs.
    4. Costs of installation, repair, construction, reconstruction, extension or relocation of public streets, public utilities and other public site improvements within or without the business district which are essential to the preparation of the business district for use in accordance with the business district plan.
    5. Costs of renovation, rehabilitation, reconstruction, relocation, repair, or remodeling of any existing buildings, improvements, and fixtures within the business district.
    6. Costs of installation or construction within the business district of buildings, structures, works, streets, improvements, equipment, utilities, or fixtures.
    7. Financing costs.
    8. Relocation costs

    What is the meaning of all these additions? You know there’s a reason these changes are being made. If the original plan were sufficient, there would be no need for this amendment. Look closely at some of these changes.

    Note in particular number 4 in the amended list: HIZ BDD funds can be used for improvements “within or without [emphasis added] the business district which are essential to the preparation of the business district….” If I’m reading this correctly, it would appear that funds from the HIZ BDD could be used to prepare the new Big Al’s site, for instance, even though that site is not in the HIZ BDD, because moving Big Al’s is “essential” to a project in the business district. And check out number 8: “relocation costs.” Who do we know in the HIZ BDD that would be relocating? Number 7 should give us all pause: “financing costs.” I shudder to think what could be included under that item.

    Bottom line, raising the total estimated project costs figure means that the City can borrow (i.e., issue bonds) up to that amount and use HIZ BDD tax revenues for repayment. But HIZ BDD revenue has already been promised toward the repayment of the proposed Wonderful Development $37 million bond issue (if/when that ever comes to fruition). Nowhere does the City show that it could afford this increase in project costs, given our outstanding commitments for that same pot of money.

    Remember, if there isn’t enough revenue from the HIZ BDD tax and HIZ TIF revenues to make the payments on the Wonderful Development bonds, guess where they will get the money to repay those bonds? That’s right: the general fund. If you’ll recall, the City is planning to issue general obligation bonds for the Wonderful Development, which will be backed by the full faith and credit of the City of Peoria.

There is more to the expansion of the Hospitality Improvement Zone than meets the eye. The City Council and staff should disclose to the public why they want these changes and what they will mean to our financial situation so that the public hearing process can be as productive as possible.

44 comments to Business District project costs to double if amendment passes

  • Well, we’ll just have to cut more police.

  • Just commenting

    Welcome back, CJ. Glad your writers block was short-lived.

  • District 150 observer

    I would be shocked if the “wonderful development” actually happened.

  • Martin Palmer

    CJ , nice picture of the blight at Staybridge Suites . Truley a out of control program. But it will be approved!

  • Dennis in Peoria

    One has to wonder since the City is backing the Marriott project, the owners of Staybridge (Holiday Inn, I believe), figured it could come eat at the public trough too, by having the city pay for remodeling/rehabbing the Staybridge Suites.

    Ever since the 1980’s recession, when cities began offering incentives to bring business, or improve existing ones, business owners has developed a champaign taste for public dollars so they don’t have to shell out 100% of the money. Even if they could afford to easily.

    How many times have professional baseball/football/basektball franchise owners have threatened to take their team elsewhere if that host city didn’t build a new stadium, mostly on the city’s dime? After giving in, the stadium gets built, and then the tickets & concessions go up in price.

  • Karrie E. Alms

    More $hell game$ … and the pea$ keep coming out of the taxpayer$’ pocketS meanwhile Emtronics hits another bullseye!

  • hmmmmm

    Hot off the presses. Manual principal Kherat told teachers she turned in her letter of resignation today effective September 9.


    Don’t worry. Dr. Lathan still has plenty of friends from North Carolina that need a principalship and a big paycheck courtesy of D150 in Peoria….hehehe

  • mortified

    Wow! Lathan sure knows how to thin a crowd! How many people have resigned since she has come to Peoria?

  • The Board of Education should stop this dead in its tracks…..this is ridiculous! Dr. Kherat cares about the children of Peoria and has an overall passion for urban education. Ask anyone…Dr. Kherat cares about people. Sounds like Lathan is a little jealous of Dr. Kherat.

    BOE do what is best for Manual High School and the Manual community.

  • Sharon Crews

    Certainly, I have been critical of Manual–can’t deny that. My main criticism has been the Johns Hopkins program, which Sharon Kherat either believed in or had to defend and taut it because it was expected of her. However, I have always cared about and still do care about Sharon. In hindsight (and I even said it in foresight ๐Ÿ™‚ ), I wish she had stayed at Whittier. She was placed in a no-win situation from the getgo at Manual. I know that Lathan has been after Sharon from the beginning. I wish Sharon well–she has learned some hard lessons here that could serve her well in her new position. If things go as usual, there will be a new principal from NC waiting in the wings.

  • Truthseeker

    What!Kherat leaving??? OMG! What is going to become of Manual?

  • saddened

    I am deeply saddened by the news. Agree with Kherat or not, one thing that can never be debated is her love for the children of Peoria. Like Sharon said, she was put in a no win situation at Manual having to support the Johns Hopkins program which has been a total waste of money and a complete flop. For her to have to take the fall for that is ludicrous. I too have heard that the new administration on Wisconsin has been after her from day one. Maybe if she and Manual would have gotten the support it deserved it wouldn’t be such a mess. It’s a sad day for District #150.

  • saddened

    Rumor also has it that she is being forced out. That it wasn’t her choice. I hope she gets a position where she can be successful and appreciated for her dedication to students.

  • mortified

    Definitely agree..kherat is classy! Lathan uhhhhh not so much.

  • tommy

    Especially with that ridiculous hairdo!!!!!! Do ladies still call it a hairdo these days?

  • tommy

    Especially with that ridiculous hairdo!!!!!!( Do ladies still call it a hairdo these days?)

  • Curious

    This is very sad news for the Manual community. I agree with the comment that whther you agree with Dr. Kherat or not, she has always demonstrated that she loves the kids. This is a terrible time of year for the students to have to endure such a change of this magnitude. (I also have heard that Johns Hopkins is a complete waste of taxpayer money.)

  • Mahkno

    Kherat did wonders for Whittier grade school. I wonder if she has another gig lined up, if this a protest resignation, or pushed out. Either way she was fishing for admin positions elsewhere.

    Kherat was very successful as a grade school principal.

  • cttsp5

    If Dr. Kherat was forced to resign or was pushed out, it is indeed a sad day for Manual. The school will go down without her. She was the driving force to get it to succeed. With her gone, there will be nothing. I don’t think Wisconsin realizes the tremendous support that she has. She is truly dedicated to the children at Manual. If it wasn’t for her, many wouldn’t be in school today. What a mess Lathan and her NC buddies have done to Dist150. When will the board get any guts to say enough is enough?

  • Alternate point of view

    It takes more than a “nice person” to run a high school like Manual. Personally, I think she was too touchy-feely, and not rigid enough in her expectations of the students. This is probably a good thing.

  • Sharon Crews

    I really believe that it is very difficult to move from primary to high school for a teacher or an administator. I was concerned about this move for Sharon from day one. She was so good at Whittier with the little kids. I feared it would too much of an adjustment to go to high school, especially to Manual where discipline problems were serious. However, I don’t believe that any of that has anything to do with Sharon’s leaving. I believe there was a personality conflict between Dr. Lathan and Sharon almost from the beginning–just my opinion. Anyway, I know Sharon; I don’t really know Dr. Lathan, so my sympathies go with Sharon. I’m beginning to see Dr. Lathan as a person who doesn’t deal well with conflict–she just gets rid of it (or them). I hope Sharon has a really good job lined up–that shouldn’t be a problem for her.

  • Counting

    Isn’t this at least 6 administrators that have left since Lathan came?

    1. Wojcikewych from Washington
    2. Ungrait from Admin
    3. Wood from Northmoor
    4. Stockman from Woodrow Wilson
    5. another admin brought in by Lathan whose name escapes me
    6. Kherat from Manual

    Are there more?

  • mortified

    Dimke from human resources
    Shangraw 150 spokesperson

  • dave b

    Last rhs principal,ptacek,sp?????

  • enough

    9. Shau- comptroller
    10. Budsban- facilities
    11. Winter Clark- special education
    12. Saltzmen, Monrad, Saltzmen
    13. The front office staff in the superintendents office
    14. Peoria High principal moved making all three high schools now changed
    15. Watch out- you’re next if you disagree

  • enough

    16. Valda Shipp

  • Sharon Crews

    Right, all but Salzman–he is doing quite well at admin building. So far the board seems to think all these casualties are progress.

  • counting 2

    16. Ptazek

  • District 150 observer

    Looks like the Marriott project may truly be on the rocks. Who brought the champagne? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • District 150 observer

    Looks like the Marriott program is near dead. Who brought the champagne?

  • A thought

    Being a school principal is not what it used to be especially in larger districts. You have to keep the parents, teachers, central office and Board all happy. Principals have become very expendable and are the easy targets when things are not going well. These are highly political positions that require some major butt kissing in order to survive! You could not pay me enough to be a principal. Unfortunaley, D150 has lost many talented principals during the last few years. Sharon K. is the latest victim. Hope she lands on her feet.

  • Dennis in Peoria

    I, along with many others here, don’t really know the exact reason why Sharon has resigned from being principal at Manual. So I won’t speculate or comment on that.

    However, I have known Sharon for at least 20 years, going back to her days as Education Director at the Tri-County Urban League. She has
    always been a go-getter, always putting the quality of education of chlidren first. She also managed the TSTM program (Tomorrow’s Scientists, Technicians and Managers), which is a goldmine of opportunity for youth in this community.

    I am confident that Sharon will do exceptionally well no matter what her next challenge is.

  • Sharon Crews

    Sharon, especially, could well be considered a victim of NCLB. It is NCLB that led to the District buying into the expensive Johns Hopkins program. Sharon was hired to hawk the Johns Hopkins program and to try to make it live up to its hype. Johns Hopkins wasn’t going to perform miracles, but Sharon was put in a position to make that happen anyway. When it didn’t happen, Sharon became the scapegoat–just as she and the current faculty replaced the old faculty who were the old scapegoats of NCLB. I don’t know when District 150 (and schools all over the country) are going to realize that these expensive programs are created by opportunists taking advantage of the opportunity to make a quick buck selling “snake oil.” That said, there are still those who believe everything improved at Manual–it didn’t, but the District has worked hard making it look that way. The truth, also, is that some of the new NC administrators do not like the Johns Hopkins program. However, I fear they have friends who have other programs (just as ineffective) that are selling magic-cure programs.

  • District 150 observer

    Kherat, Sharon โ€“ MHS Principal 9/9/11
    Morrow, Tremain โ€“ MHS Dean 8/11/11

  • Dennis in Peoria

    So how do you sort out the curriculums that work, and the ones that don’t work?

  • District 150 observer

    Manual principal’s resignation hits I saw their dean resigned this month also.

  • Sharon Crews

    Dennis in Peoria, up until NCLB, school districts chose textbooks that met the needs of their students–then the teachers were “the programs,” so to speak. Courses were added to the curriculum as were deemed important, etc. Of course, District 150 took many away–hence, Johns Hopkins comes along to “sort of” return some of the technology along with the other programs that shouldn’t have been taken away to begin with.

    As for the expensive computer programs such as Compass Learning, I don’t have any experience with them, so I can’t judge. However, if there aren’t computers for every student to use every day every hour, then no computer programs are going to be worth all that much. And there aren’t that many computers available.

    Over the summer, kids were supposed to log on to Compass Learning to do work to prepare for this year. Frankly, I tried to get the 8-year-old who visits me to do the work, but he wasn’t much interested in working alone. Kids that age do need teachers–human contact–when it comes to learning. They might play games, but not too interested in the harder school work.

    When you ask what works and what doesn’t work–I guess if NCLB scores don’t go up (the main reason all these programs were purchased), then they don’t work.

    Mostly, the district shouldn’t buy programs they can’t afford–stick to the textbooks, which are, also, expensive.

    Especially, at the primary level, I do see value in the programs that assess how well a specific student is doing with regards to standards, etc. The reports that come home with primary students are very helpful–mostly helpful for very basic skills that can be easily measured.

  • Sharon Crews

    Peoria Journal Star complaint–I tried to find an appropriate post under which to write this but…. I just called the PJS to find out how to access the eEdition, for which I thought I had been paying $1.49 a month. However, it turns out that I’m paying $1.49 just to get on the site and that the E-Edition would cost another $1 a month. However, all that is soon to change–letters should be going out soon–that all subscriber rates are going up from $20+ to $22+, which will force all subscribers to pay for the automatically and we will still have to pay another $1 extra if we want the eEdition.

  • I will note that the costs of this program are generated by a 1% tax on hotel rooms. That money is used for the purposes spelled out in the study that CJ summarized. It does not take money or taxes from any other program.

    The hotels all wanted this program. It will help them improve their properties, which need improving. It is one more effort to improve our central business district.

  • District 150 observer

    Good to see Matthews has squared up with East Peoria.

  • checking for details.

    why is government involved in that at all? Let the hotels put 1% in the bank on their own and pull it out when they need it. That is how business should run and it saves the taxpayers from shelling out funds to process it. We do not need to be in any of this. If a developer wants to build a hotel, then let them, the gov’ts only job is to make sure it is safe for the public. Not to fund, mangage, direct, etc. It is not our responsiblity to babysit and to fund businesses. It is their job to bank money and reinvest in their property. The city’s primary job is public safety and infastructure, Peoria fails on all accounts for those two charges.

  • Karrie E. Alms

    CJ: Would the COP be able to roll any monies from this project to these facade improvements?

    Proposed O’Brien Field exterior revamping unveiled