Combating a 40 percent vacancy rate in its retail space, management of Renaissance Place has asked the Highland Park City Council to lengthen the amount of time it has to repay money due the City as part of its Special Service Area Agreement.
A public hearing will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday to give the public an opportunity to offer its views on the issue after the Council had a disagreement among itself over whether to allow the relief and if interest should be charged. None is required now.
One thing Highland Park is not getting now is sales tax from the vacant space. As Renaissance tries to fill the spaces once occupied by Saks Fifth Avenue, Restoration Hardware and other merchants, help now may bring future tax revenue.
“That’s the hope,” City Councilman Paul Frank said. “If this will help (the shopping center) work with its tenants and (potential) new tenants, it’s going to help the tax base.
Councilman David Naftzger has concerns about assisting a for profit organization because of future implications. He also does not think the City should bear a cost. He believes the property owner should pay interest instead.
“The City of Highland Park and its taxpayers are not a bank,” Naftzger said. “We are not going through what a bank would to give a loan. We are taking a risk and what were are asking is fair compensation for an appropriate level of risk.”
Naftzger was the only member of the Council to vote against the proposal at its Sept. 9 meeting. Frank is in agreement on the idea of charging interest but is also willing to help. “This is one of the tools at our disposal,” he said referring to things the City can do to stimulate business.