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Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed a bill that would give the city of Aurora, Sho-Deen Inc. and ComEd more time to relocate an electrical substation along the Fox River downtown that could pave the way for new development.

Senate Bill 321, sponsored in the Senate by state Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, and in the House by state Reps. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) and Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego), had passed the Illinois Senate in June unopposed. It is a specialized piece of legislation giving Aurora, developer Sho-Deen Inc. and ComEd until Aug. 1, 2020, to relocate a substation that sits in the middle of about a 30-acre piece of property along the river that Sho-Deen intends to develop.

The law extended the expiration date of cost-sharing agreements in the development agreement between Aurora and Sho-Deen Inc. through the River Edge Redevelopment Zone program.

“The River Edge Redevelopment Zone program was designed to help developers take old, unused property and renovate it to meet today’s needs,” said Holmes. “I appreciate the governor signing this into law. It’s going to make sure developers have enough time to make use of these incentives for an important project.”

The entire 30 acres is south of Benton Street downtown. The city and Sho-Deen have a development agreement on the property signed almost 10 years ago. The development came to a halt due to the recession and the housing market bust, but Sho-Deen and the city have been talking recently about starting the project up again in some fashion.

Originally, the development was known as EastBank, and developer Kent Shodeen planned a $600 million project with 18 buildings on the east bank of the Fox River there. It would have had 900 residential units and up to 250,000 square feet of commercial space.

Sitting in the middle of the otherwise picturesque site on the river is the ComEd substation, which still serves a good chunk of downtown and the surrounding area. Aurora, Sho-Deen and ComEd were to pay to have that substation relocated so the site could become part of the new development.

The city, Sho-Deen and ComEd were to each pay one-third of the relocation cost. ComEd was considering serving the same customers with several different, smaller sites throughout the area. The cost to relocate the substation was about $10 million, as estimated almost 10 years ago.

The relocation was to be done under rules allowed in the River Edge Redevelopment Zone, a zone set up by state law for several older river cities in the state with downtowns along rivers, including Aurora. The program sets up development incentives, including tax breaks and historical tax credits, for properties within the redevelopment zones.

Aurora was the first of several Illinois cities to develop a redevelopment zone and was the first to expand theirs. Right now, redevelopment of the old St. Charles Hospital into senior-targeted housing is a River Edge Redevelopment project that is underway in Aurora.

But the overall River Edge Redevelopment Zone program is set to expire at the end of the year, and Holmes, Chapa LaVia and Kifowit still are fighting to get legislation approved to extend the program. The city has several potential downtown redevelopment projects that could benefit from the historic tax credits available, city officials said.

slord@tribpub.com

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