Daley Defends Use of TIF (Re-post From Crain’s)

August 11, 2009

Daley defends TIF for United move

By Eddie Baeb
Aug. 06, 2009

(Crain’s) — Mayor Richard M. Daley says the city’s proposed $24-million subsidy to help bring 2,800 United Airlines employees downtown is warranted because of the recession and the importance of the airline and air traffic to the city’s future.

At a news conference Thursday in the lobby of the newly rechristened Willis Tower, Mr. Daley said the move of UAL Corp.’s operations center from northwest suburban Elk Grove Township to the iconic skyscraper will make UAL the city’s biggest private employer.

“This is the largest relocation of jobs to the city of Chicago in recent years,” Mr. Daley said.

The airline will have 16,000 workers based in the city limits once it moves into Willis Tower, North America’s tallest building, which was known as Sears Tower until last month. The relocation could begin as soon as fall 2010, United says.

The Chicago region’s largest private employer is Wal-Mart Stores Inc., with some 23,000 full-time employees, according to a Crain’s list published Jan. 5.

Contingent on the subsidy, UAL has agreed to lease 460,000 square feet on nine lower-level floors for 15 years in Willis Tower, 233 S. Wacker Drive. The company wouldn’t disclose which floors it will occupy.

The proposed TIF subsidy would cover 40% of the estimated $60-million build out of UAL’s space.

The mayor downplayed the risk of such an investment even though UAL’s credit is sub-investment grade and there’s speculation the company might not survive.

“You have to have confidence. I believe the (federal) economic stimulus did not recognize this industry. This industry is vital,” Mr. Daley told reporters. He later defended providing tax-increment financing for such deals: “If you don’t create jobs, then you lose more and more business.”

City staffers also note that the subsidy will be paid out over several years, and will include provisions allowing the city to get some of its money back if UAL doesn’t live up to terms of the agreement, including maintaining a certain number of jobs.

UAL CEO Glenn Tilton told reporters that the subsidy package was “key,” and that other municipalities also offered incentives. He said 13% of UAL’s local employees live in Chicago and that 80% live within five miles of a Metra station.

“All things considered, this facility — both from an economic perspective and a quality of work-life perspective — was the best facility in the running,” Mr. Tilton said.

The company had estimated it would cost $50 million to $90 million to upgrade the sprawling Elk Grove Township campus, which Mr. Tilton noted was built in 1961 and is now 40% vacant.

“Vacant space is not a motivating influence on a workplace,” he said.

A leasing representative of Willis Tower with U.S. Equities Realty says 1 million square feet of space has been leased in Willis Tower over the past two years. The tower has suffered from high vacancies since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.


Naperville Sun – Letter To The Editor

August 4, 2009

On July 31, 2009, the Naperville Sun posted a Letter to the Editor. The writer of this letter, K.C. Swininoga, of Naperville, listed various concerns about the Omnia project, many of which were mis-statements. In an effort to provide correct information we have submitted a response to the Editor of the Sun, and have also posted our detailed response below.

Original Letter

July 31, 2009

Theater company moved frequently

Here’s a critical thinking challenge to Mr. (Sun columnist Bill) Mego (“Omnia backers …”, July 21) — look beyond the hype regarding TheatreDreams.The Omnia team looks to TheatreDreams to define the future. The activities of this company since formation in 2001 reveal a pattern that brings to mind a theater classic — The Music Man. Their tenure at Chicago Theatre is exemplary:
Prior to 2003: Chicago taxpayers inherited $21 million in renovation costs after previous operators defaulted and ownership reverted to the city.

Late 2003: TheatreDreams purchased Chicago Theatre for the fire-sale price of $3 million. October 2007: TheatreDreams sold Chicago Theatre to New York-based Madison Square Garden because they “found it hard to compete with the subscription and programming muscle of Broadway in Chicago.” TheatreDreams principal Larry Wilker is quoted as stating, “The problem is that Chicago is a very, very rough, competitive market.

The opportunistic, short-term nature of TheatreDreams’ commitments has been repeated several times across the country in its brief history — a management partnership at the Kodak Theatre began in mid-2005 and ended March 31, 2008; management services were provided for the Arsht Center in Miami beginning in November 2007, ending in 2008. In February 2008, a project remarkably similar to the Omnia proposal was announced in Salt Lake City, Utah — to be led by Bill Becker, a principal of TheatreDreams. This is proceeding even though a competing venue is already in development in a suburb of Salt Lake City.

They “guaranteed there will be no losses”? Free land and tax exemption might keep this project above water for a few years while the novelty lasts — and then TheatreDreams will move on. After all, “76 trombones led the big parade” … but then what happened?K.C. Swininoga, Naperville

Our Response

We are writing to correct a number of statements by K. C. Swininoga made in Letters to the Editor on July 31, 2009 titled “Theatre Company Moved Frequently.”

The writer’s statement that Theatre Dreams did not stay long in Chicago is misleading.  They paid $3M for the Chicago Theatre in 2003, managing it to profitability within a few years. It was not for sale.  They had no intention to sell it.  However, in 2007, Madison Square Garden Entertainment approached them and made them an offer they could not refuse.  It was simply a good business decision on the part of Theatre Dreams.  Madison Square Gardens saw an opportunity to jointly program it with their Radio City Music Hall facility in New York.  Also a wise move.

In addition the writer’s comment about the $21 million renovation costs for the Chicago theater as a large loss to the city of Chicago is incorrect.  The city did pay the Federal Government for a loan it had guaranteed, however, the quoted amount does not reflect that about 2/3rds of that loan was attributable to the adjacent companion project known as the Page Brothers Office Building.  It was not reflective of the income and tax revenue the city received during the very profitable years associated with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, etc.  It also is not reflective of the income the city received from the Page Building rents over the years.  Some of those rents were very lucrative.  More importantly, Chicago has recouped that modest investment many times over as that project evolved into a whole theater district and has pumped perhaps several billion dollars into the Chicago economy over the past decade.  It is a great success and the result of sophisticated planning and use of a Tax Increment Finance District (TIF).

The “quote” about Chicago being a difficult city in which to own a theater was incorrectly ascribed to Larry Wilker of Theatre Dreams.  It was actually a personal observation made by Chris Jones in his column for the Chicago Tribune, which can be viewed here. In actuality, Theatre Dreams has a proven track record of success in overcoming business challenges.

Theatre Dreams has been brought into several cities to take over a less than profitable organization and turn it around.  They have a true knack for managing theatres.  After they have completed their job, they leave.

The writer cited the Arsht Theatre in Miami.  At the time, it was having financial difficulty.  However, what the writer failed to mention was under the management of Theatre Dreams, Arsht’s annual attendance increased from 41% to over 70%, stabilized their financing and ended the last fiscal year with a surplus.  Theatre Dreams was hired on a one-year assignment with clear intent from them to restaff the center so that it would become a better, more accountable, self-managing administration.

By way of background, Larry Wilker had tremendous success in helping to establish, grow, and manage the Cleveland Playhouse Square, a multi-theater district that is a jewel within that battered city.

At the Kennedy Center, where debt was increasing $2million per year, he teamed with attorney Bill Becker, who was General Counsel to the center.  Here they managed to pay off all the debt, more than doubled the attendance, and increased fund raising from $13million to $38million per year.

During that time at the Kennedy Center, Mr. Becker guided the project to expand the Center’s below grade parking garage with a $32M Industrial Revenue Bond, was instrumental in the planning for a $400M expansion of the Kennedy Center which included a 17 acre plaza utilizing air rights over the adjacent highway, in addition to many other projects.

The writer also cited Salt Lake City where Bill Becker is assisting his brother, the mayor, in planning of a 2500 seat Broadway multi-use theatre that was announced as a city planned facility by the previous mayor.  The so-called competing facility mentioned by the writer is not funded nor under construction.  It is unlikely to be built given the City’s recent concentrated efforts to upgrade their arts district with a facility of a size and specifications similar to Omnia.  Mr. Becker has stated he will not own or manage the new theatre because that would be a conflict of the trust placed in him to assist.  The local press has stated his assistance is a lucky break from an expert.

It should be telling to the Naperville community that Omnia’s Theatre Project has captured the attention of Theatre Dreams.  Given their background and repeated success, their interest in Naperville and being managers of our theatres would indicate we are on the right track.  They are true professionals with a track record of success.

Bev Patterson Frier and the Omnia Team

The Little Town That Could

July 6, 2009

Written by: Hilary Decent

Once upon a time there was a sleepy little town called Naperville. Its people were always bright and smiley, and there was nothing they couldn’t do. Naperville was a lovely place to live, but there was one problem. The river that ran through its downtown area was ugly.

“Naperville is such a pretty place, it’s a shame that we have such an ugly river,” they said. So they banded together and came up with an idea. They decided to change the ugly area into a beautiful one. Planners designed a wonderful river walk and the people of Naperville joined forces to make sure it was the most beautiful place you ever did see. They laid tiny bricks one by one to make a path. They put in twinkling fountains and covered bridges. People came to admire the Riverwalk from as far away as London, England, and exotic Dubai (largely due to my own personal efforts, I may add).
Thirty years went by. Naperville was no longer a sleepy little town. It was a city. Its people were still bright and smiley (even with a heat index today of 105 degrees). Naperville was an even lovelier place to live, but there was one new problem.

The Fifth Avenue car park by Naperville Station was ugly.
“Naperville is such a pretty place, it’s a shame that we have such an ugly station car lot,” they said. “It’s also a shame that the land contains a preserved building which makes any new construction around it difficult. It’s even more of a shame we don’t have enough parking for all our commuters.”

So they decided to change the ugly area into a beautiful one. A group of Napervillians (including many who built the Riverwalk) came together and thought up a wonderful idea.

“We can turn the area into a new jewel in Naperville’s crown,” said the head of the cliche committee. “We’ll have mixed housing, shops, restaurants, parking garages and best of all a 2,700 seat theater where Broadway shows will be mounted. We’ll call the project Omnia – for all.”

Now not everyone in Naperville was pleased about this. They worried about increased traffic, possible taxes on residents and how higher building structures would spoil the view of the railroad tracks. The City of Naperville was worried too. They had their own plan, but that was just for improved parking.
But the people of Omnia were not deterred.

“Naperville is a visionary place,” they said. “We have to look to the future. This theater is exactly what we need. Plus all the new housing will pay for it with a TIF.” (No, I can’t begin to explain what a TIF is, you’ll have to Google it I’m afraid).
So the battle of Omnia continues. If you’d like to find out more about it and lodge comments, visit www.omniaarts.org.
I for one hope it has a fairy tale ending. It’s only what I would expect in magical town like Naperville. A town where a few old timers can come together to not only put on a show in a barn, but who can build a state of the art ‘barn’ and solve half the city’s problems at the same time.

79 and Pushing The City’s Future

July 6, 2009

Written by: Hilary Decent, for the Naperville Sun

Read the original article.

At the age of 79, most women would be happy to sit reminiscing about the past as they rocked on their porch. But not Bev Patterson Frier. After retiring from a successful business selling pianos and organs, she hasn’t let the grass grow under her feet.

Bev still flies her own plane and is spearheading an ambitious campaign to see a performing arts theater built in Naperville. She has the energy of someone not half, but quarter her age, and is certainly not going down without a fight.

“This town has been so good to me. I believe you have to give back in life, so this is payback time,” she said. “It’s like washing a spot on the wall. You’ve got to keep going because it’s right.”

Bev’s life focus has been getting children involved in the arts. She’s an emeritus board member of Interlochen, the arts and music school in Michigan, and started her working life as a piano teacher. But when her husband died of cancer at just 39 years old, she had to raise her two teenage children by herself.

“I had to get out of my house, and Dutch Beidleman offered us his old apartment when he built his funeral home,” she recalled. “He helped me to start my own business. I knew nothing about how to do it, of course, but with his help, I opened up a 700-square-feet store right near The Naperville Sun’s old offices in downtown Naperville.

“Harold White, the editor, taught me how to advertise. Some of the local businessmen were real Naperville old-timers, and they looked after me. I’m so grateful to Naperville.”

Bev Patterson Pianos and Organs grew from one small store to a larger one where Jimmy’s Grill stands now. She also opened other stores in Elgin and at the Woodfield and Fox Valley shopping centers as they were developed.

As friends with White and his wife, Eva, he would take her flying in his plane, persuading her to learn to fly herself. She met her second husband, Bill, during this time, and the two of them not only learned together, but gained their pilots’ licenses on the same day. They’ll be celebrating Bill’s 90th birthday this summer.

Bev began her campaign to build a theater in Naperville 12 years ago. As support grew, she formed a not-for-profit group, Omnia, to raise money for feasibility studies, and on Saturday, their reports and feedback from the community will be handed over to the city for consideration.

The development, which has been profiled in The Sun, would be on land around Fifth Avenue Station. In addition to a 2,700-seat performing arts theater, it would include parking and housing, the revenue from which would pay for the development. The city already has been considering plans to use the land in its Fifth Avenue study. Bev’s plan is apart from that.

“In 100 years’ time, what do we want our legacy to be?” Bev asked. “Parking decks on the surface, or a beautiful theater with parking underground? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Bev believes you can never go back, and Naperville has to look to the future.

“I want to keep the small-town feel we have, but we won’t be able to do that unless we are a walking community,” she said. “Downtown Naperville is constantly evolving. You can’t put toothpaste back in the tube. We’re a city. We enjoy its quaintness, but to do nothing is to go backwards.

“We must keep reinventing ourselves. To have a facility like this is something nobody else is going to have. We can’t live in the past. We have to think about what our town will be like in the future.”

How would she feel if the city didn’t back the proposal?

“I can’t quit this project,” she said. “There are too many people who want this. The naysayers just don’t have all the facts.”

Would you like to see a theater in Naperville? Bev needs your feedback. Leave a message at www.omniaarts.org by Friday.

Hilary Decent would like to hear your stories about great women in the community. E-mail her at hilarydecent@yahoo.co.uk.

Omnia In the Daily Herald

June 6, 2009

Naperville group ready to unveil development plan near downtown

Naperville residents soon will have a chance to see a downtown-area development proposal that has been creating a buzz for several years.

Omnia, a nonprofit group, is holding a public meeting next month to present its proposal for a $200 million performing arts center and commuter parking garage near the Fifth Avenue train station.

The group will unveil its plans, which also include condos, shops and restaurants, at 7 p.m. June 23 at the municipal center, 400 S. Eagle St.

Omnia President Bev Patterson Frier said the meeting will address traffic, parking and economic impact.

“We want to get the word out there … that it’s not just a performing arts center; there’s a lot more to this project … but a lot of people don’t have the big picture,” she said.

City planners have been working on their own study of future land uses for the area around the Fifth Avenue station. It formerly housed the city’s public works facility but that has since been rebuilt on the west side of town.

Planners have developed five possible land use alternatives. Their study is scheduled to appear before the Transportation Advisory Board and plan commission next month.

Naperville officials have stressed the Omnia proposal is independent of the Fifth Avenue study and they are not endorsing it by assisting with the June 23 meeting. Read the full article.

Omnia in the Naperville Sun

June 6, 2009

Will Omnia be able to win over Naperville?
Residents will have chance to comment on massive downtown plan

Image from Article

When Omnia incorporated as a non-profit organization, President Bev Patterson-Frier had to pick a name to write down a name on the papers. She recalled her days studying Latin at Wheaton High School.

“Omnia means for ‘all’ in Latin, and that’s what I view this facility. For the use of the public at large,” she said.

The proposed $200 million Omnia development would use much of the space (above) at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Washington Street in Naperville for a new performance space (inset), along with retail space and more parking. Omnia will present its proposal at a public meeting at 7 p.m. June 23 at the Naperville Municipal Center.
(Danielle Gardner/Staff Photographer)

Next month, the public at large will have the opportunity to view the plans for the estimated $200 million proposed Omnia development, which calls for a performing arts center along with residential and retail in the area surrounding Naperville’s Metra station north of downtown.

Omnia’s Board of Directors will host a public meeting to present a development concept for the area at 7 p.m. June 23 in the council chambers at the Naperville Municipal Center, 400 S. Eagle St. While the plans have been viewed by some City Council members and some community groups, this is the first meeting open to the general public. A public meeting scheduled last summer was cancelled, with Omnia officials saying at the time they preferred to present the plans in smaller groups. That concerned many who live in the area who were looking for more information and expressed concerns about such a development’s affect on the neighborhood, including traffic and property values. Omnia officially submitted its plans to the city in December….. click here to read the full article

A Break-through for Omnia

June 6, 2009

The Omnia team is ecstatic to announce that the City of Naperville has finally approved a public presentation of the Omnia concept to the Naperville residents.

The city released the following information on May 20th, 2009.

Omnia Board of Directors to Present Development Concept

Comments Will Be Accepted During Public Meeting on Tuesday, June 23

NAPERVILLE, Ill.— The Omnia Performing Arts Center Board of Directors will host a public meeting to present a development concept for the area surrounding the downtown Naperville train station on Tuesday, June 23 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers at the Naperville Municipal Center, 400 S. Eagle St. During the meeting, representatives from Omnia will present the conceptual development plan. Public comments will be accepted at this meeting. This concept is independent of the City of Naperville’s Fifth Avenue Study.

Written comments on the development concept will be accepted through Friday, July 10. All comments may be submitted to City of Naperville, Attn: Rory Fancler, Community Planner, 400 S. Eagle St., Naperville, IL 60540 or via e-mail to fanclerr@naperville.il.us.

The Omnia development concept and associated public comments will be forwarded to the City Council for discussion and direction along with the Fifth Avenue Study Report. Both items are anticipated to go before the City Council in summer 2009.

The Omnia Performing Arts Center is a private concept that includes a performing arts center and mixed-use development. The concept has been discussed by Omnia, a private entity, as a possible redevelopment scenario for the area surrounding the downtown Naperville train station. More information on the Omnia Performing Arts Center concept is available online at www.omniaarts.org.

The City of Naperville is not endorsing or approving the Omnia Performing Arts Center by way of this public meeting. The meeting is being held to present the development concept and solicit public input prior to consideration by the City Council.

What is Omnia?

June 6, 2009

Omnia is not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, with a proposal to revitalize the north side of the Downtown Naperville train station by replacing the unsightly, asphalt surface parking lots and old buildings with:

•    a sheltered underground parking garage doubling commuter parking spaces 
•    new residences, 
•    a Cultural Center with a Performing Arts Center as the anchor.

Omnia believes its proposal will create an exciting “Picture Post Card” entrance to Naperville worthy of Naperville’s designation as one of the best US cities in which to live!

Read more about Omnia at www.omniaarts.org.