Dear neighbors, friends, and supporters:
I’d like to clarify the misinterpretations and misrepresentations regarding the Special Service Area (SSA) for Pilsen proposed by the Greater Pilsen Economic Development Association (GPEDA) and The Resurrection Project (TRP).
Contrary to the opinions disseminated on social media, the proposed SSA is not an attempt to raise the cost of living in Pilsen, the very community that founded TRP in 1990. It is a proposed tax conceived with the input of local businesses, stakeholders, and residents that will create a stream of revenue to support expanded public safety, sanitation, art, beautification, and community programs. And while all SSA taxes are inherently controversial, we support the current proposition because we believe it will have far-reaching economic, employment, safety, and quality of life benefits for the Pilsen community as a whole.
What is an SSA and what will it accomplish?
An SSA is a local tax district that funds expanded services and programs through an additional local property tax levy within the proposed boundaries. The proposed Pilsen SSA would amount to an additional tax levy of up to 0.53% the first year, which is subject to change but cannot exceed 0.65% during the 10-year life of the SSA.
This increase will only be levied on property owners within the proposed SSA boundaries, which have yet to be finalized. The resources generated will be reinvested within the SSA boundaries to improve the community. If approved, the funds generated from this SSA will be administered by a public commission and can be used for community programs such as:
- Security services such as off-duty patrols, additional lighting, police bike patrols, installing surveillance cameras, more graffiti removal, and crime awareness and educational programs for residents
- Regular cleaning, snow removal, and power washing of sidewalks, parking and transit programs, and additional transportation such as trolleys for special events to ease parking and traffic congestion
- Employment opportunities for local Pilsen artists to create murals, sculptures and other art initiatives
- Business retention/recruitment initiatives and building rehab matching grants
- Reliable funding for improving building facades, and other similar construction, development, and redevelopment costs
- Concentrated and coordinated advertising and promotion to increase tourism and business sales in Pilsen
- More planters, better signage, benches, and vibrant public spaces to maintain a dynamic image of Pilsen
Who proposed the SSA and why?
TRP was approached in 2011 by community business leaders and stakeholders to address how to collectively improve the local economy and overall quality of life in Pilsen. These business leaders and stakeholders joined together to form GPEDA. TRP agreed to incubate GPEDA because of their vision and desire to do good for the community. Many of GPEDA’s members are themselves parishioners in local parishes, have their children in local schools, and are doing their part to improve the neighborhood.
For the last two years, GPEDA, with TRP’s assistance, has kicked off many new initiatives, including:
- Small business workshops to assist local entrepreneurs in financial management and business planning
- Technology workshops to teach small business owners how to better market themselves
- Monthly networking events and events such as the “18days to X-mas on 18th street”
- Cleaning up business areas such 18th Street and Blue Island
In 2012, GPEDA and TRP identified an SSA as a potential resource to continue to promote Pilsen’s economic vitality, boost the local economy, and create more jobs. We understood that SSAs are, by nature, controversial because they are a modest tax increase for properties inside the SSA district, but we also knew that they bring many advantages, promote local autonomy, and empower communities to dictate and oversee the use of all SSA resources. SSA resources are governed by the Public Meetings Act, and all information pertaining to established SSAs is made publicly available.
Why did TRP support the SSA application?
Per the City of Chicago’s policies, an SSA must be administered by a nonprofit organization that has a demonstrated track record of accomplishments, the organizational capacity to manage the program, the support of the local aldermen, and a presence or familiarity with the community. For the proposed Pilsen SSA, GPEDA asked TRP to administer the program.
An SSA will strengthen the local economy and spur job creation—elements that align with TRP’s mission of creating healthy communities through a comprehensive approach that includes affordable housing, community engagement, financial wellness services, and economic development. Therefore, in late 2012, TRP submitted a pre-application on behalf of GPEDA to initiate the process. As part of this process, GPEDA and TRP are required to have at least two public meetings before an official public hearing takes place in the fall. This process also requires that the official SSA application be submitted by June 14, 2013 in order for the City to formally evaluate the application and determine its eligibility. If the City deems the application acceptable, a public hearing will be scheduled at City Hall in the fall.
Who will manage the SSA if approved?
Oversight of the funds and service delivery would come from an SSA Commission, a group of local property and business owners located in the proposed SSA. The City requires that all SSAs conduct an annual independent audit, which is then reviewed by the City’s outside auditor and the Department of Housing and Economic Development. Strict fiscal policies and procedures must be established by the SSA Commission, requiring public bids and open meetings at which bids are reviewed and awarded.
The process and deadline to apply to be part of the proposed SSA can be found on the City of Chicago’s website at http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/special_service_areassaprogram.html.
How will the SSA benefit property owners who are not business owners themselves?
Any of the programs and services enacted will benefit everyone in the SSA district. For example, if a building façade program is created, non-business property owners will be eligible to access these resources. If sidewalk snow removal is approved, everyone in the SSA district will benefit. As the local economy improves and Pilsen becomes a stronger, more vibrant, and safer neighborhood, the subsequent increase in property values will benefit all property owners.
Does the community have a say in the matter?
Yes! In addition to posting documents and information about the SSA via the Pilsen Portal, we are conducting open and transparent public meetings to inform and engage as many people as possible. We recognize that not everyone will agree with the proposed SSA, but we welcome all opinions and input because this is a community matter and want the community to be as informed and engaged as possible. Another public meeting to solicit community input is scheduled for June 6, 2013 at La Casa Resource Center (1815 S. Paulina Street) at 6:30 p.m.
The GPEDA business owners and property owners who have taken leadership to propose the SSA are friends and neighbors to the community. The businesses and property owners who presented at the first public meeting include:
- Edwin Molina of Don Churro, property owner and business owner for over 30 years
- Juan Manuel Girón, business owner and property owner of Girón Book Store for over 30 years
- Mark Sussman, business owner of Vogue Fabrics and Chicago Fine Tailoring for over 10 years and property owner in Pilsen for over 10 years
- Cesar Gonzalez, business owner of Pl-zen Gastropub, resident and property owner for over 10 years
- Azalia Gomez, MB Financial serving the Pilsen community for over 15 years
- Soledad Hernandez, business owner of Del Sol Realty and property owner for over 15 years
- Gus Drugas, business owner of Ciao Amore for over four years and property owner for over seven years
- Yvette Dudley, business owner of Soultry Shoes for over four years
- Eleazar Delgado, business owner of Café Jumping Bean for over 15 years
- Elvia Torres, business owner of State Farm Insurance franchise and property owner for over eight years
- Monica Henao, business owner of Efebina’s Café for five years and property owner for over 10 years
The SSA is still in application phase, and neither the boundaries, services, budget, or tax rate have been finalized. The goal of these meetings is to get input from the community and adjust these efforts as needed. Please feel free to join the conversation, or call Ulises Zatarain, Vice President of Community Engagement and Programs at TRP, at 312-880-1893 for more information.
What is TRP’s track record?
TRP was founded in 1990 by area churches and concerned neighbors to create healthy communities through comprehensive community development. Since 1990, we have:
- Developed more than 100 quality affordable homes in Pilsen for families and seniors
- Provided free financial wellness education and services, including foreclosure counseling and home purchase assistance, to more than 13,000 people in Pilsen and surrounding areas
- Developed Centro Familiar Guadalupano, an early childhood center serving over 200 children for working families
- Developed La Casa, a student housing complex to help area students succeed in college
- Created hundreds of jobs for area residents
- Advocated for the benefit of the community in issues of education, health, safety, housing, and immigration
- Partnering with many other organizations including several of the local parishes, Alvio Medical Center, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, Instituto del Progresso Latino, Pilsen Neighbors, Gads Hill, The National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago Boys and Girls Club, PERRO, Pro Arts Studio, Benito Juarez High School, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Cooper Elementary, Orozco Middle School, and many other stakeholders in the community to develop strategies to improve the lives of residents of the community and create a stronger more healthier community
TRP also serves other neighborhoods throughout the Southwest Side of Chicago to improve the quality of life of residents and create healthy communities. To learn more, visit our web site at www.resurrectionproject.org.
TRP has worked alongside partners and neighbors to make our communities stronger through interconnected programs, services, and offerings. Therefore, we stand with GPEDA and share the common mission and vision to improve the lives of residents and to create a brighter and more prosperous future for the Pilsen community.
Raul I. Raymundo
Chief Executive Officer, The Resurrection Project