After recent failures to privatize operations at Chicago's Midway Airport and several major port facilities, Chicago officials claim they are faring better with a program to privately fund energy-efficient upgrades to city buildings. They just have nothing to show for it yet.
CIT, created by the city in March 2012, plans to use cost savings from improvements to reimburse debt and equity investors it is seeking to fund the projects, allowing the city to expedite retrofits it otherwise couldn't afford. Potential participants presumably include Citibank, J.P. Morgan Asset Management and other large investors that expressed enthusiasm for the program at a 2012 press conference organized by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
According to its web site – CIT CEO Stephen Beitler did not return calls from ENR Midwest – the trust presently is seeking proposals from placement agents to execute $83 million in renovations to public schools, in addition to facilities operated by the city's Departments of Water Management and Fleet and Facility Management.
In theory, placement agents will structure and price potential transactions, develop offering documents, and assist the trust in negotiating and closing financing programs. In addition to $19.5 million in lighting improvements for schools, proposed projects include a $39.5-million program to replace steam-powered units with electric units at a water pumping station and $24 million in upgrades at several Fleet and Facility management locations.
CIT also has indicated it is proceeding with plans to build solar farms on vacant parcels, with RFQs to be issued later this fall.
In all, CIT plans to finance $225 million in projects that would reduce Chicago's annual energy consumption by 20% and related annual expenses by more than $20 million, according to city estimates.
For some time now, CIT has faced criticism for not proceeding sooner and more aggressively with projects, to which Beitler has countered that few models exist for the types of investment deals the trust is seeking. As a result, CIT is engaging in careful and deliberate planning of the projects it plans to execute, he said. In the meantime, the din and clamor of naysayers is growing louder.