This story originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune on March 8th, 2017
By Alex V. Hernandez
Franklin Park officials have granted Al Gelato a tax credit to expand its operations within the village.
Mike Hahn runs Al Gelato alongside his business partner, Paula DiNardo, out of a set of manufacturing and storage spaces at 9133 Belden Ave. in the village. Earlier this year, Al Gelato was looking for a new location because its current location was beginning to strain under the volume of its manufacturing and storage needs — specifically, that its dry storage, cold storage and manufacturing area are spread out over three buildings, which are adjacent to each other.
After searching Franklin Park and the neighboring suburbs, Al Gelato's owners found a property at 3220 Mannheim Road that is large enough to house its storage, production, and office space needs all under one roof, said Hahn. Additionally, the industrial property is empty except for office space, which means the building is a blank canvas for Al Gelato's owners to design the interior space as they see fit.
As part of this expansion plan, village trustees voted to approve a 6b tax credit at the 3220 Mannheim Road for Al Gelato on Feb. 21. In Cook County, the 6b designation is designed to encourage industrial investment — specifically, the development of new industrial facilities, the rehabilitation of existing industrial structures and the industrial reutilization of abandoned buildings. Qualifying properties can apply to receive a 12-year reduction in real estate assessments from the standard commercial assessment rate of 25 percent, according to the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development website.
Typically, a building must be vacant for at least two years to qualify for this type of tax credit, and the 3220 Mannheim Road property has been vacant for only about one year. But the village allowed an exemption in this instance based on the "the aged and overall worn and obsolete physical condition of the structure; the unkempt and unsightly structure that have created a blighting effect on surrounding properties; the ongoing deterioration of the structure that has an intrinsic chilling effect on the influx of new industrial development within the area; and the erosion of the tax base of the village and other taxing districts by the loss of industrial enterprises and employment opportunities," according to village documents.
Hahn said his business would be able to consolidate everything under one roof while also not affecting the commute of his employees or distribution network too much.
"They've been growing the business, and Mike told me he was looking to expand his business because he needed more space," said John P. Schneider, director of community development for the village. "His business is growing, and I'm glad we kept them. When you nurture a business like this in a town, you hate to lose to another town when they want to expand."
The company started out of a cafe in Elmwood Park 40 years ago. A woman named Claire Sisco from Calabria, Italy founded it, Hahn said.