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Joliet looks for big return on Innovation Pavilion incentives

The old Lyons Lumber yard, pictured here, was acquired by the city with the intent of using it someday for economic development, a city official said. The property is one of two Joliet has offered to Innovation Pavilion for an incubator business campus downtown.[]

JOLIET – City officials hope to see big effect from an incentive package developed for a tech-oriented incubator campus planned for downtown.

The Joliet City Council is slated to vote Tuesday on the package, which includes up to $200,000 in cash, free land, tax incentives and possibly more.

On Monday, the council will hear from Vic Ahmed, the founder of Innovation Pavilion. The Colorado-based company plans an incubator campus that would provide a place for entrepreneurs to develop business ideas in an environment where they would live and socialize as well.

“This is a very cutting-edge project,” Councilman Larry Hug, chairman of the Economic Development Committee, said last week as the committee recommended approval of the incentives.

Hug noted that the Millennial generation that is the target market for Innovation Pavilion is the age group the city is trying to attract downtown.

And, he said, the money offered in the incentive package comes from funds aimed at attracting new development to the city, especially downtown.

“That’s exactly what these funds are set up for – to stimulate economic development and growth,” Hug said.

The city-owned land being made available for Innovation Pavilion is a new twist. But one is a parking lot and the other is now the site of a couple of empty buildings formerly used for the Lyons Lumber yard.

The city bought the Lyons Lumber property for the sake of future downtown development, Economic Development Director Steve Jones said.

Jones called the incentive package “no risk, high reward” because it’s designed to only kick in once Innovation Pavilion applies for building permits.

Here is what the incentives

• Innovation Pavilion would get up to $200,000 in reimbursements to cover half of what it spends on pre-construction development costs, which the company and city estimate to be about $500,000. Jones said the money would come out of a fund for the downtown tax increment financing district, which now has $600,000 available to encourage development.

• Innovation Pavilion is considering two downtown sites: 2.7 acres along the Des Plaines River, which is now the site of the city’s Riverwall Parking lot; and the 4.6-acre former Lyons Lumber site on East Washington Street near South York Avenue.

• Tax increment financing incentives would rebate property taxes on the land to offset the costs of development.

• The city would agree to act as an advocate for Innovation Pavilion in obtaining unspecified amounts of funds from a Special Service Area that was expanded last year to promote economic development downtown and in surrounding business corridors and generates about $630,000 a year. The fund is administered by the City Center Partnership, but the tax is authorized by the city.