Fulton Market SSA Facts & Questions

What is a Special Service Area (SSA)?

Special Service Areas, known as Business Improvement Districts (BID) in other cities, are local tax districts that fund expanded services and programs through a localized property tax levy within contiguous areas. The enhanced services and programs are in addition to those currently provided through the City of Chicago. SSA-funded projects typically include, but are not limited to: safety and security initiatives, public way maintenance and beautification including litter abatement, district marketing and advertising, business retention/attraction, special events and promotional activities, public and bike transit, and other commercial and economic development programs.

Special Service Areas are a commonly used economic development and community investment tool that exist in almost each of the top 50 largest cities in the United States. Chicago currently has 53 active SSAs. They are each established by a City Council vote; if established, the SSA ordinance lasts ten years and can expire or be renewed at the end of each term.

Why does Fulton Market need an SSA?

The West Loop’s population has increased 112% in the last 5 years, with over 4,000 new residential units under construction or proposed during 2017-18 alone. The Morgan Green Line Station already receives over 900,000 annual riders per year. In tandem with this growth, crime in the West Loop has accelerated. Hyper-development in the West Loop has spurred a hazardous pedestrian environment, as even some of the most basic safety features like street lighting lag the increasing density. Infrastructure will only get worse as the gap between what is needed and what’s available not only grows but accelerates in the coming years.

Because funds passing through an SSA program are completely transparent and available to the public at all times, it is the most accountable financial tool available to the community. Given the feedback received during the public meetings, WLCO has decided to postpone the SSA application by one year.

How were the SSA boundaries decided?

The proposed Fulton Market SSA boundaries closely resemble that of the Fulton Market Innovation District (FMID). The FMID was established in 2014 by the Department of Planning and Development (DPD). Its purpose is “to coordinate ongoing development in and around the city's last remaining market district.” Having similar boundaries enables the SSA to reinforce the identity and cohesion of Chicago’s iconic meatpacking district through unified safety, beautification, and economic initiatives.

What about Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus (NOB) and Kinzie Industrial Corridor Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds?

The West Loop Community Organization (WLCO) does not collect or control NOB or TIF funds. The NOB program is jointly operated by local aldermen and the Department of Planning and Development (DPD). The TIF program was established by and remains a City Council initiative. WLCO has not received or allocated any money from these programs to date.

In the interim, however, WLCO will continue to make formal recommendations to 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr. and appropriate City authorities to allocate funding from both the NOB Local Impact Fund (10% of all NOB contributions) and TIF to address existing infrastructure issues an SSA could address. Establishing the SSA before the Kinzie Industrial Corridor TIF expires would enable infrastructure investment passing through the SSA program to be transparent, trackable, and community-led.

Aren’t these services the City should be providing?

Yes, however, City services are spread evenly throughout the municipality. For example: say the City provides public trash removal once a week. An SSA trash collection initiative would not replace but enhance existing services by either increasing frequency of collection or replacing the utilities with another model. The West Loop Community Organization (WLCO) does not determine the application of City services and cannot change its baseline offerings. We encourage anyone with questions or concerns about City services to contact the respective authorities. If you don’t know who to speak with, we can help direct you.

In instances where SSA constituent services overlap, for another example, tenant services included in homeowners association (HOA) or rental fees, we would recommend those fees be reconfigured to further alleviate the financial burden on residents.

Who decides how to spend an SSA budget?

Mayorally-appointed commissioners for each SSA district oversee and recommend annual services, budget and Service Provider agency to the City. The Service Provider is a local non-profit that contracts with the City to manage the SSA.

Business and property owners within the SSA boundaries are eligible to apply for a commissioner appointment. The position is volunteer and cannot overlap with Service Provider personnel in order to maintain ethical standards. The SSA Commission can be as few as seven volunteers and as many as thirteen. The Commission gathers feedback and data from the community in the course of determining areas of investment. The Service Provider does not make any decisions on where to allocate funds.

The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) also maintains a five-point oversight strategy to ensure accountability and effectiveness of every SSA, including the enforcement of Commission bylaws, Commissioner training, SSA policies, an SSA operations plan, and Service Provider training that’s provided by the City directly.

What will happen between now and the next application process in 2020?

WLCO will be establishing a new SSA Advisory Committee that will capture even more input from stakeholders representative of the Fulton Market’s diverse constituency. Business owners and PIN holders within the proposed boundaries can help us advance the conversation by joining the Committee. The Committee is volunteer-based and will facilitate needs assessment and budgetary planning for the SSA throughout the year. Online applications to join the Advisory Committee will be available on this website beginning August 1, 2019.

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