An attorney who helped the Cubs win hard-fought City Council approval of the $575 million plan to renovate Wrigley Field and develop the land around it has emerged as a leading candidate to become Chicago’s new Planning and Development commissioner.
As an attorney specializing in zoning, land use planning, historic preservation and tax-increment financing, David Reifman has had a hand in scores of major projects that have altered the development landscape in Chicago.
Reifman helped nail down tens of millions in state and local tax incentives that convinced Boeing to move its world headquarters to Chicago.
He represented the developer behind the controversial plan to replace shuttered Columbus Hospital with an upscale condominium tower and helped Bloomingdales negotiate the TIF subsidy and painstaking landmark approvals that paved the way for redevelopment of Chicago’s historic Medinah Temple.
Projects near and dear to Mayor Rahm Emanuel are also high on Reifman’s list of accomplishments.
They include the renovation of 101-year-old Wrigley; plans to build a Whole Foods store in Chicago’s impoverished Englewood community; and redevelopment of the 200-acre Pullman site, which once housed Ryerson Steel, to include a new Wal-Mart super-center and a new manufacturing facility for Method Home Products.
Now, Reifman has emerged as a leading candidate to replace retiring Planning and Development Commissioner Andy Mooney.
But how would an attorney who has played a role in so many pivotal Chicago projects divorce himself from his former development clients and become an impartial arbiter advocating the city’s best interests? And how would Reifmanquickly rebuild that lucrative law practice when his work at City Hall is done without violating the revolving door clause in the city’s ethics code?
A partner at the clout-heavy law firm of DLA Piper, Reifman could not be reached for comment. Emanuel was out of the country and unavailable for comment.
A profile on the law firm’s website describes Reifman as an expert in “land-use and zoning, real estate transactions, public-private financing transactions including TIF financing, landmarks and historic preservation issues.”
“David has extensive experience securing required development, zoning, annexation and subdivision approvals for commercial, retail, residential, hotel, industrial, office and mixed-use developments,” the bio states.
“He also has a widely-recognized practice in public-private development transactions, including many high-profile office, industrial, commercial, retail and residential tax-increment-financing projects, creation of special service areas, structuring sales tax rebates, property tax abatements, hotel tax reimbursements and government grants. David’s practice additionally involves representing developers and property owners in the acquisition and disposition of property, including contract negotiations, due diligence and property evaluation, satisfaction of contract contingencies, project financing and closings.”
Of all the projects that bear Reifman’s fingerprints, none was as time-consuming and hard-fought as the Wrigley project.
Contentious negotiations between the Cubs, local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) and the owners of rooftops clubs overlooking the landmark stadium dragged on for years, spanning two mayoral administrations.
There was also hard bargaining with Emanuel over the Cubs’ failed demand for an amusement tax subsidy and over virtually every element of the team’s revised plan to bankroll the project with an influx of outfield signage and additional night games.
Ultimately, Wrigleyville residents accused Emanuel of going too far by giving the Cubs the go-ahead to put up two video scoreboards, four other outfield signs, extend the Wrigley footprint onto public streets and sidewalks without compensating Chicago taxpayers and play more night games.
At Emanuel’s behest, the City Council also approved the Cubs’ ambitious plan to develop the land around Wrigley Field with a hotel, an office building and open-air plaza with even more signage.
The mayor finally put his foot down in the middle of his re-election campaign when the Cubs requested around-the-clock or late-night construction at Wrigley to speed up a bleacher reconstruction project delayed by Chicago’s frigid winter temperatures.
Emanuel hit the equivalent of a big fat fastball out of the park by siding with Wrigleyville residents who wanted to get a decent night’s sleep.
The new left-field bleachers opened May 11. The right-field bleachers opened last month.
If Reifman is the mayor’s choice to replace Mooney, he will have fewer development tools at his disposal to lure downtown projects.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that Emanuel plans to freeze new spending in seven downtown TIF districts and shut down those districts when existing projects are paid off.
The decision to phase out the seven TIFs that cover portions of downtown Chicago would free up about $250 million over the next five years.
Of that windfall, $125 million would go to the cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools and $50 million to city government. A “small amount” would be held back for “emergency infrastructure projects.”
The plan also calls for converting from an executive order into law Emanuel’s mandate that the city declare at least 25 percent of the unrestricted cash balance of healthy TIFs as a surplus and return the cash to CPS and city coffers and for establishing a first “TIF termination policy” that would spell out the criteria under which taxing districts would be automatically shut down and shining even more light on TIF spending.