Homewood Mulls Public Space Project

Homewood's plan to create a downtown public space is becoming more refined.

Work on Homewood’s proposed downtown public space project continues to move ahead, but not all trustees are on board.

Members from design firm, The Lakota Group, have been working on design alternatives for the project and they brought them along to Tuesday night’s village meeting for direction from the board and staff on how to proceed.

Two main location alternatives were of focus for the new public space: the stretch of Martin Ave. north of Ridge (extending to Village Hall) and the stretch of Martin Ave. just south of Ridge (extending to the Gottschalk House). Both are likely to incorporate features ranging from a splash pad to outdoor fireplaces, public seating and Tivoli lights. 

The project, with all the bells and whistles, is estimated to cost anywhere from just over $60,000 for the South Martin proposal to over $500,000 for the larger North Martin Ave. location. 

Many local business owners whose businesses are located near the proposed public space sites attended Tuesday night’s meeting. While some concerns over parking and building accessibility were brought up with respect to the North Martin Ave. development, there seemed to be a general optimism among the group over the South Martin development proposal.

But the optimism was not shared among all trustees when it came time for comments. Chief among the dissenters was Trustee Anne Colton, who cited nearby Irwin and Independence Parks as examples of why this might be unnecessary.

“We’re working on this supposition that, as soon as we build a green space, people are going to come flocking because they’ve never seen a green space before—and we have green space, and it’s not being utilized,” Colton said.

Trustee Colton also argued that the timing was less than ideal for such a decision.

“In the last few months, we have committed $900,000 in public funds to Dr. Gendreau’s hotel,” Colton said. “I’d like to see some results. I’d like to see some data before we spend another half-a-million dollars on something I’m not convinced we need.”

Village Preisdent Richard Hofeld disagreed with Colton’s desire to put the brakes on the project. 

“We have to have, as previous boards have had, a vision for the downtown,” Hofeld said. “If you just let things sit and don’t do anything, nothing happens.”

The money for the project is coming from the downtown TIF fund, which expires in December of this year. The village has until then if they want to spend any of it.

The Lakota Group will refine their plan based on the feedback from Tuesday’s meeting and return to the board later for a vote to execute construction drawings. Homewood Community Development Director Paula Wallrich says she hopes the project will be ready for bid by spring.

Mr. Jack January 16, 2014 at 07:55 PM
Good grief! Let's keep race out of this discussion.
Ben Rodenburg January 17, 2014 at 01:29 AM
I don't see why we can't pretty up both sites for WELL under the $600k they are looking at spending, and do it in a greener way. For example, rubberized pavement made from old tires can be stamped and colored to match the surrounding paved brick, but can be laid over the existing pavement, AND it allows water to channel through it, therefore eliminating the need for re-engineering, removing, and replacing the functioning storm drainage already in place. It costs less than concrete and paver brick, too. If it doesn't work out, it can also be easily removed and the street returned to it's current condition cheaply and easily. I'm sure there's a way to run a splash pad under it as well...but why do we want one of those downtown again?
Ben Rodenburg January 17, 2014 at 01:42 AM
In regards to the parking issues, why don't we use some of that downtown TIF money on a parking lot study to increase parking behind the businesses on Ridge Road? I realize it's privately owned, but I don't think the owners of the parking lots would be opposed to the village paying for a study that would allow more business parking, and I'm sure the village has enough TIF money to pay to have the private parking lots restriped if it will help bring in more commerce. We may be able to create a dozen or more additional parking spots just by painting parking spots on an angle. I doubt the owners would be opposed to the village spending money on them, in an effort to help them out.
Ben Rodenburg January 17, 2014 at 01:52 AM
Just because it's privately owned doesn't mean it doesn't provide a public service.
RJ Martin January 17, 2014 at 09:35 AM
I'm still not understanding why the Metra station isn't being repaired, isn't that part of creating a better downtown and entry to Homewood?


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