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.