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353 Court

WHAT WE KNOW: In June, downtown revitalization firm, 353 Court of Pekin, presented a four-year action plan to Aledo City Council aldermen.

Their findings report details buildings, businesses, branding, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It outlines thorough recommendations on how to create a vibrant downtown.

WHAT’S NEW: Court 353 met with the city’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Committee in July to begin setting up programs to incentivize downtown business owners.

This week, the council approved the new program guide.

Programs include Downtown Building Stabilization, Upper Story Living Loan and Storefront Improvement Program. A business can now apply for a forgivable loan up to $50,000 in TIF funding — but it can’t be more than 50% of the cost.

Formerly, a business could apply for forgivable funding up to $25,000.

As part of the guide, businesses can also apply for a Downtown Aledo Business Improvement Grant — a one-time grant up to $10,000. New or existing businesses must be located in the historic downtown district.

The Grow Aledo Program is a short-term loan from $1,000 to $10,000 with a low-interest rate offered to self-employed individuals, new startups or small businesses with only a few employees. This loan can be used for working capital, purchasing inventory, buying equipment, machinery and hiring needs.

WHAT’S NEXT: Mayor Chris Hagloch said TIF funds would be budgeted for next year with those programs in mind.

“It’s suggested we break it up to put some toward projects, downtown revitalization, some toward other TIF projects that could come up, some toward branding and signage.”

He also said they planned to streamline the approval process — to take no longer than 45 days.

“353 Court will work directly with the developer/property owner to put together a TIF application that they will approve," Hagloch said. "That will come forward to the TIF committee meeting, (then), it goes straight to the Council.”

The firm began collecting and analyzing data in February and is contracted to work with the city for the next four years to establish a long-term plan for economic stabilization and growth.

Hagloch said now that Aledo’s downtown streets and sidewalks had been updated, they planned to shift focus to the storefronts.

“It’s been very positive to watch what they’ve (353 Court) done in Havana — we’ve already made some connections ... we’ve got some people ready to invest in downtown, now we’ve just got to find some entrepreneurs — people that are ready to start a business.”

The TIF District ends in 2021. Unspent TIF funds can only carry over one year, Hagloch said.

The council heard W.J. Albertson purchased two more downtown buildings, Hall’s building and the former Law Office of Mark Appleton (recently deceased). He already owned the (closed) Aledo Meat Market location. Hagloch said he met with Erik Reader, 353 Court and Darius Bryjka, project reviewer at the Illinois Historic Preservation, Springfield, to discuss how to qualify for a 20% tax credit in those three buildings.

“He would like to finish the upstairs apartments also, so we have some downtown upstairs living, but there’s nothing finalized currently,” Hagloch said. He was interested in the new TIF programs and is working closely with 353 Court.

— CALA SMOLDT/mercerconews@gmail.com

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