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Some downtown business owners still not happy

January 10, 2019

KANKAKEE — At least two downtown business owners still are holding out hope the $1.9 million downtown redevelopment plan will not include the exclusion of on-street parking on the east side of Schuyler Avenue.

At Monday’s Kankakee City Council meeting, Lance Marczak, co-owner of Out On A Limb, 139 S. Schuyler Ave., said during the public comment portion of the meeting the loss of on-street parking will harm business.

He also noted some downtown property owners were unaware of this pending change.

The redesign plan was approved by a 12-2 vote at the Dec. 17 council meeting. The city needed to have the plan approved so money from the expiring downtown Tax Increment Financing district could be used for this purpose.

The redevelopment project, already out for bid, is expected to take place this spring and early summer. The goal is to have it completed before the Merchant Street MusicFest weekend set for late July.

If the money had not been earmarked, it could have been lost — meaning returned to the taxing districts which had voluntarily participated in the tax abatement program for the past 23 years.

Even though the plan already has been adopted, Marczak said changes can be made.

“Yes, I know you voted on the downtown project,” he said. “But the fact is the shovel is not in the ground yet. All of you have the power to make changes.”

The plan targets three blocks: the 100 and 200 block of South Schuyler and the 100 block of North Schuyler.

The program also will feature new sidewalks in the three blocks and decorative string lighting. The project also will include bicycle lanes on each side of the street.

Lynn Jaffe, daughter of Harold Jaffe, the longtime owner of the Jaffe men’s clothing store property at the corner of North Schuyler Avenue and East Court Street, said parking always has been an issue and this plan only amplifies it.

“If there was serious talk of taking away our parking places, since he has paid into the TIF taxes for so long, I’m sure he definitely would have expected a phone call from someone,” she said.

“We are all for change and progress in Kankakee,” she said. But spending large sums on a bike path that will lead to the loss of on-street parking doesn’t make business sense, she said.

“We do need to bring people downtown. Probably with businesses, rather than bicycles.”

Marczak did say some officials from the Kankakee Development Corporation, which oversees the downtown district, have expressed an interest in meeting with the owners.

Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong has defended the city’s approach toward conveying the message about the plan. She said outreach efforts began last July, and the city hired a firm, Tesla Associates, to help spread the word. She said Tesla has a strong reputation for successful outreach.

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