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Residents, to Board: 'Slow Down' on Downtown Plaza

Proposed plans for a downtown plaza in Homewood will have to wait, as trustees Tuesday voted against moving forward with current plans as proposed.

Residents of Homewood saw a live show of democracy in the works Tuesday evening. 

Supporters and opponents of a proposed open, public space in downtown Homewood spoke up at Tuesday's village board meeting, many asking the board to step back and slow down with the project. 

The four trustees were split on the project, but ultimately decided to heed residents' advice. With two dissenting votes from trustees Anne Colton and Lisa Purcell, the plan failed. Trustees Jay Heiferman and Tom Kataras were absent; the motion needed four "yes" votes to pass.

Prior to the vote, design firm LaKota Group presented revised options for two main locations for the new public space: the stretch of Martin Avenue north of Ridge (extending to Village Hall) and the stretch of Martin Avenue 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 updated plan knocked $200,000 off the package price, Colton said. Still, there's more work to be done before the board can agree to such a large expenditure. 

"The plan is to offer more opportunities for public input, and present an updated plan in a few months," Colton said. 

Village officials hope the development will increase local retail traffic and revenue and provide an economic return to the village. The idea is to "develop a heart—a gathering place for the town," Community Development Director Paula Wallrich said at an earlier meeting. 

Since first broaching the idea in Fall 2013, the village has moved quickly with the concept. Many residents said they feel uninformed on the project, and asked the village to give pause on the topic, and work with residents. 

"I think the village's communication could have been better," Colton said. "There are 200 ways to get in touch with people, and we as a village need to use all 200 ways." 

LaKota Group will dive back into the plans for another round of revisions. Colton said she's eager to see what they bring to the table in the coming months. 

"I want it to be something that's more reflective of the community, and what the people want. Something that reflects the desires, needs and wants of the residents," she said. 

She was grateful for the board's cooperative approach to discussing the topic, especially when addressing residents' concerns. 

"We do have a responsive government," she said. "We do listen. We try our best."

Derrick G February 12, 2014 at 05:59 PM
I know I can't wait to help my 95 year old grandma on icy sidewalks for 3 blocks to get her hair done!!
Genvieve LaChappele February 12, 2014 at 08:18 PM
wow tessa's dollhouse is doing better than the cottage! Maybe a splash pad next to the restaurant will increase sales
Jessie February 13, 2014 at 09:42 AM
I never even knew about Tessa's closet! Thanks Wags69!
Lynn February 13, 2014 at 04:04 PM
Well , I don't think parking availability should be reduced . There isn't that much in the first place. HOWEVER, I am a walker & do live walking distance from Downtown and Walt's & sometimes am willing to walk as far as Cherrycreek. I have always been a walker. But I know there are people who are unable to do so. I am on the "far side" of Middle Age but hope to be able to be a "walker for many years to come. Also , I think , that it would benefit people , who can, to actually get of their -----'s and walk . May even add years to your life. Who knows you might even enjoy it.
John February 15, 2014 at 06:13 PM
Yeah...I'm sure the Wal-Mart they plan to stick in the old K-Mart will be just wonderful for downtown businesses. Why not Costco? At least they pay their employees better and is different than the Target across the street. The only one this plaza plan would seem to benefit is the planned hotel...which I'm still having a very hard time believing will be a success. There are parks in Homewood already. There is already a splash pad at one of them. BUY SALT!!! If you don't use it all up, save it for next year.

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