TIF Illumination Project

The  TIF Illumination Project began with a town meeting at the Chopin Theater on February 12, 2013.

Since then (through May of 2016) we’ve done 47 public meetings all over Chicagoland in front of 4,700 people. We’ve Illuminated 141 TIFs across 34 wards.

At these meetings we explain what TIFs are, how many in the ward, our estimation of how much property taxes were extracted by those TIFs FROM the ward, what projects IN the ward received TIF dollars, an estimation of how mkuch money from the ward was LEFT in TIF accounts at the end of the year – and more.

All our presentations are archived on our “TIF Town Meetings” page.

Wards covered

The wards outlined in red all received their own TIF Illumination meeting. The wards in blue were covered in two meetings – The Northwest cluster around Logan Square was done in one meeting, and the Central west cluster around Little Village was covered at another.

We produce nifty graphics to explain ALL the impacts of TIFs on a ward–by-ward basis. Here is our graphic showing the 12 TIFs of the 27th Ward:














View this news segment from “In The Loop” news program from WYCC Public Television from April 14, 2016.



TIF stands for Tax Increment Finance. It’s a BIG deal – In 2016 a total of $493 million in property taxes were extracted by TIFs across Chicago.

Watch this great six minute video from Cook County Clerk David Orr.

Watch this creative and fast moving seven minute video produced by WBEZ’s “Curious City” Project.

When a TIF district – say, this one, is created then the value of The value of ALL the properties inside the district is assessed or calculated and the total amount of property tax generated by all those properties is noted – let’s call that number the BASE AMOUNT OF PROPERTY TAX REVENUES. The life span of a TIF district is 23 years. For the next 23 years all property revenue ABOVE this BASE AMOUNT is captured by the TIF district. This amount – the amount over the BASE is called the INCREMENTAL REVENUE. The process looks something like this:

The important thing to note is that the city and county are fueled by property taxes. Just about every thing we do or use in the city – police, fire protection, the public schools, public transit, the public libraries, our parks and the basic operations of the city and county – these are all powered by our property taxes. If you rent, then a portion of your rent will eventually make it into that pool, as the owner of the property you rent must pay property taxes. In Chicago some twelve agencies depend on property taxes to operate:

Here is another look at who relies on our property taxes for their operation:

So if TIF districts take property taxes “off the top” – how does this affect all those agencies that rely on property taxes for their operation?


TIF Districts-1986-2013

In 2013 there were 435 TIF districts in Cook County – 151 in the city of Chicago and 284 in the suburbs. They diverted a total of $683 million in property taxes. $422 million was taken in city property taxes and $261 million in suburban property taxes.


Chicago TIF Totals to 2013

Over 30% of Chicago is in a TIF District!

Are YOUR property taxes being diverted?


Here are some of the companies that have received property tax subsidies or other benefits from the TIF program in Chicago:

Surprise! These companies got YOUR tax dollars.

And there is:

  • Hyatt Hotel Hyde Park -$5,200,000 [Download the development plan – Harper_Court-Hyatt_CDC]
  • K-Mart -$3,700,000
  • Quaker Oats -$13,000,000
  • Union Station Health Club -$3,200,000
  • Block 37 developers -$12,000,000
  • Chicago Symphony -$2,500,000
  • Sears -$13,700,000
  • United Airlines -$32,000,000
  • Rush Medical Center -$75,000,000
  • Loyola University -$20,400,000
  • Sara Lee -$5,000,000
  • Wrigley -$15,000,000
  • Home Depot -$8,000,000
  • Keebler – $2,000,000
  • Jewel/Osco – $9,600,000
  • Target -$9,900,000
  • UPS – $11,300,000
  • Wilson Yard developer -$54,200,000
  • Grossinger Auto – $8,500,000


Whenever we’ve had the volunteer labor to look deeply into the connection between TIF recipients and the aldermen who authorize them we see obvious conflict of interest. Take, for example, the case of Golden Country Food Distribution Warehouse, which received $9 million in TIF funds in 2001 from the Pilsen TIF.

golden-countryThe principals involved in the project gave the local Alderman, Danny Solis and his political apparatus a total of $64,100. Download our documentation->cipm-power-corruption-analysis.

Across the state of Illinois some 445 municipalities have spawned 1,220 TIFs. According to the Illinois State Comptroller’s Office, 530 of these TIFs – or FULLY 43.4% – are out of compliance and had not filed their required annual reports or other paperwork at the time the last state report was issued (9/14/12).[ Download the report here: 2010-State_TIFNonComplianceReport]


TIFs are in every state except two, Arizona and Wyoming.


Here is a short video that explains the basics of the Tax Increment Program.

The TIF Report Project From The CivicLab from Thomas Tresser
Here’s a humorous take on TIFs that was created by then journalism student Adam Verwymeren for the Medill News Service.


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