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Village Asks Residents: 'Do you Like Our Plaza Plan?'

Homewood hosted a public meeting Monday night, for residents to express their thoughts, air concerns, and learn more about a proposed plaza project.

Attendees at a public meeting Monday for a downtown plaza in Homewood didn't quite seem sold on the idea—but they weren't outright rejecting it either, said Trustee Anne Colton. 

The 35–40 audience members heard a presentation by Director of Community Development Paula Wallrich. The plan was much the same as what was presented at a Feb. 11 meeting, when supporters and opponents asked the trustees to slow down the process and gather additional input from the community. 

Design firm The Lakota Group was not represented at the meeting. Colton was unsure why. Trustees Colton, Lisa Purcell and Jay Heiferman were present, as well as Assistant Village Manager Mike Marzal, Finance Director Dennis Bubenik, and Public Relations, Marketing Manager Rachael Jones.

Residents expressed concerns about parking, and closing down a portion of Martin Avenue for the estimated $500,000 project, which would be funded by revenue from a special taxing district. The plan calls for closing Martin Avenue north of Ridge Road for about 100 feet; the remainder of the street would open to two-way traffic.

Attendees were invited to fill out a postcard with their choice of amenities—which have been said might include such features as an ice rink, fire pit, special lighting, bistro tables, and seasonal planters and benches. Colton said she wished a representative from Lakota could have been present, to specifically address questions about closing down a portion of the road—something an urban planner would have been able to tackle in-depth. 

"I didn't feel a sense of outright rejection of the idea," Colton said. "I did sense that people were wanting more information."

Colton said that while the meeting was designed to field people's questions about the project, she was uncertain that the format accomplished that. 

"It's not the best forum for brainstorming," she said. 

Still, she hopes to bring the residents' questions and concerns back to the Lakota Group, for revisions to be made to the plan before it's back up for approval at the board's next meeting, she said.

The board will vote on whether to move forward with the project at the March 11 meeting, but the design will most likely roll out in stages. 

Residents should reach out to Village Manager Jim Marino or trustees with any specific questions. Contact information can be found on Homesweethomewood.com.

Did you attend the meeting? What were your thoughts? 

Homewood Jim March 06, 2014 at 08:05 AM
rrmike - you may have mis-understood my post. My point is that there is no easy answer to solving the problem of decaying downtowns - be it Homewood or Highland, or thousands of others. Just throwing money at a problem---any problem---is rarely the answer. I did NOT say 'don't even try', I suggested that maybe it would be wise to wait until Le Banque opens, and re-assess options then. And firepits? I hate them, and don't understand them. My neighbor's firepit woodsmoke irritates my asthma. Can someone please explain the firepit thing? Anything to do with cavemen?
RJ Martin March 06, 2014 at 11:35 AM
I know I sound like a broken record, but again I have to ask how come the METRA station isn't being repaired/renovated/updated? It's horrible, just horrible. The last time my family took Amtrak with all the sitting water it felt like we were walking through a science experiment gone terribly wrong. Tinley Park has a beautiful station with a restaurant inside (like the Tinley/Orland area needs more restaurants). Why can't Homewood just get a station that's not falling down around commuters' heads? I'm assuming METRA is responsible for their stations, but seems like the Board should be hounding their butts before someone gets seriously hurt. Again, isn't the station part of the "downtown" area?
Karen Kurowski McHugh March 12, 2014 at 12:09 PM
ACN23 - Random thoughts in your head blurted out rarely have the same impact outside. Fire pits out in the open are stupid and if "the old man from Worth" agrees - then I am not alone. And by the way - my husband is from Chicago - thanks for asking.
John May March 17, 2014 at 04:02 PM
You know... actually... the train station thing is a good point. A really good point. What we want to promote in Homewood is the "bedroom community" identity. We want it to be a nice place for professionals and their families. That mean we want the real day to day experience of professionals to be really good. If we want to spend money to help the village, a really nice train station is a good idea. With nice(r) benches, warm(er) heated areas, and how about free wifi for residents? Shoot how about a vending machine? Sitting at that train station on a winter morning is a miserable experience. True I'm sure for just about every Chicago area train station. What if we were really ambitious and made it... *not miserable*? When the train comes through our town going south, it's just had a very proctological view of some of the ugliest parts of the greater Chicago area. It might be worthwhile really focusing on making our train station stand in contrast to that - something to be proud of. Something that makes us look like the jewel of the south suburbs, not just a slight improvement over the areas to the north.
Vernon Cherrywood March 29, 2014 at 03:21 PM
As a former Homewood resident (18 yrs) that has since lived in 7 different states and 3 countries, I think a small redevelopment of downtown, including more public space, is exactly what Homewood needs to revitalize its downtown. By spending "tax payer dollars" on a carefully planned improvement project like this, beautifies/modernizes the town, adds amenities, and will attract people to the downtown core, IMPROVING the local economy. If all people have the attitude of "nothing should change" or "Not my tax dollars!", Homewood will continue to decline, lose tax revenue, become less relevant as a leading suburb. This is not a budget-busting project and would bring a much needed "buzz" about Homewood. Look at the websites for towns like Palm Springs who are spending on capital improvements. Here is one town in Arkansas with similarities to Homewood and how they turned their town around: El Dorado, Arkansas: Raising the boom Then: Home to a 1920s oil rush that brought high hopes, rows of new buildings and 30,000 people to "Arkansas' Original Boomtown," the golden opportunity of El Dorado's namesake gave way to the Great Depression and perpetual economic hardship. By 1980, the town's commercial district was barely ticking. Now: Thanks to one huge civic mobilization, mass restorations, a new $14.4 million conference facility and a roster of annual festivals, El Dorado has recouped its reputation as "the pride of south Arkansas." The once desolate downtown is now lined with more than 65 specialty shops, eateries, inns and the state's only operating art deco theater. Wow: Each May, the Bugs, Bands & Bikes festival features thousands of revving motorcycles gathered for a bike show/parade and a two-day Battle of the Bands -- all seasoned with hundreds of pounds of the region's best crawfish. All it takes is vision, hard work, and the right attitudes.

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