Fox Lake seeks to spruce up Route 12 “Northern Gateway”; “We want to create a wow factor going over the bridge” – Chicago Tribune

Fox Lake is wasting no time reinventing itself for appearances and business opportunities by adopting a tax increment financing (TIF) neighborhood at both ends of the Highway 12 bridge.

Called the “north gate” of the village, the total 40-acre set includes existing commercial sites on the west side of the bridge.

The village council approved the ordinances needed for the designation last month, and the move is spurring redevelopment along the corridor.

It will complement the Lakefront Park project on the east side of the bridge. Park design amenities include an amphitheater, 15,000 square foot boardwalk, lighting, playground equipment, pathways, and other architectural enhancements.

“This is a carefully planned effort,” said Deb Waszak, the village administrator. “In fact, we are currently reviewing the design of our lakefront park to ensure that the dock layout allows boaters to access our nearby town center on foot.”

The new TIF District project area consists mainly of marinas and repair facilities, with the unique feature of having an island connected by the bridge. The 25 commercial acres include the One Hundred Club at 100 N. Route 12 near Arrow Marine. Engineering plans for a three-story hotel are currently being reviewed by the village.

“It requires a 100-110 room hotel on 2.5 acres and a rooftop restaurant, with an additional 2.5 acres for the beach and marina,” said Donovan Day, director of economic and business development for the village. “We want to create a sensational effect going over the bridge where people will see a beach, a new hotel and lots of things to do in Fox Lake.”

The Bauske boat basin has been in operation since 1959 and is also within the boundaries of the TIF. “It’s a good thing if you want to rock the city,” co-owner Bryce Bauske said. “The idea is for redevelopment, so whoever comes…they can take advantage of the tax breaks.”

Waszak noted that the village would have to negotiate and approve any redevelopment deal. “These are ‘pay as you go’ TIF districts, where the sponsor pays the upfront fee and is reimbursed for TIF-eligible expenses,” she said.

A tax increase financing district is identified by a government entity as underdeveloped or degraded property. Its equalized assessment rate is essentially frozen for up to 23 years. Any money collected above the rate is placed in a special fund for site improvements and infrastructure.

The lakefront redevelopment project area at the bridge level was approved for the TIF District by a state-mandated joint review panel comprised of local taxing agencies. A public hearing on the matter was held on August 9.

“We will be able to strengthen our economy and our quality of life by focusing first on our natural assets that provide tourism and recreation,” said Mayor Donny Schmit. “These TIF neighborhoods, and the Village’s investment in our lakeside park, were carefully planned to…connect them to our businesses throughout the community and downtown.

“Increasing our income through development and tourism will allow us to provide essential services to our residents without increasing taxes and fees,” he added.

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