Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– The Matteson Area Chamber of Commerce held its 19th Annual State of the Villages Luncheon last Wednesday at Dining on the Green in Park Forest. Village officials from Park Forest and four surrounding municipalities touted accomplishments from the past year. Speakers included Mayor Rick Reinbold of Richton Park, Matteson Village President Mark Stricker, Olympia Fields Village President Linzey Jones, Mayor John Ostenburg of Park Forest, and David Sevier, Village Manager of University Park.
The event affords mayors and village presidents the opportunity to reflect on accomplishments from the past year, and share future plans for their respective municipalities.
The following are Mayor John Ostenburg’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:
First of all, let me express my appreciation to the Matteson Area Chamber of Commerce for choosing to hold this year’s State of the Villages program here in Park Forest. We are grateful and honored to have the opportunity for all of you to be the guests of our Village. We encourage you to come back often, and to take advantage of the cultural and commercial offerings that our community affords.
There’s a Zen commentary that goes: “The question is the same, the answer is the same sand in the rice, thorns in the mud.”
Though it may sound esoteric on the surface, it is in fact – as is the case with most concepts gleaned from Zen thought – really a very pragmatic message. Problems always will pop up, whether they be in the form of sand in our rice, or economic development efforts that fail to achieve fruition. Here in Park Forest, we’ve had our share of problems over the years – we’ve stepped on many a thorn that’s been hidden in the mud – but the problems have not deterred us from pursuing our goals. As a result, we are seeing a modicum of success that gives us great pride in our accomplishments, and even greater hope for the future. Let me enumerate just a few of those.
- Phase I of the Legacy Square development – just down the street from this location – has been completed and all the homes are sold. We believe this influx of new residents into our downtown area will provide increased traffic for the businesses that are located here.
- At present, we are finalizing the application for a CDBG grant that will help us take down the former Marshall Field building so the property to the south of Legacy Square is ready for either commercial or residential development – or, hopefully, both.
- Meanwhile, more residential and commercial development is being planned for the area on which the former Hidden Meadows golf course was located. Just this week, the Village Board and the Plan Commission held a joint meeting with the developer for that project to review concept plans and to open the door for actual work on the property to begin. We believe the beautiful site will ready for construction within the coming year.
- If you drive through the downtown, you will see increased occupancy of our storefronts with businesses that draw even more traffic to this area. We now have a dance studio, a fitness center, a dry cleaners, a flower shop, an auto parts dealer, a several small offices, all of which were not here a year ago. These businesses join others that have been in our downtown for a longer period, and all together they come ever closer to meeting our goal of creating a traditional downtown that provides goods and services for our residents.
- Adding to the activity of the downtown is a façade remodeling program presently being undertaken by Matanky Realty, the firm that owns about a third of the downtown property. We believe the improved appearance of the Matanky buildings also will help draw more tenants.
- Over on Western Avenue, the former Norwood Square shopping complex has been purchased by the Nassimi Group, a firm known for its success in turning around properties that have failed in the past. We believe the Western Avenue road improvements will increase the opportunities for Nassimi to achieve success with this project.
- The final big project for our Village is the traffic-oriented development being planned for Lincoln Highway at the intersection with the Metra rail line. We are looking to a combination of residential and commercial development at that site that will enhance the overall opportunities available both to persons making use of the Metra station for their daily commutes and to others who simply travel Lincoln Highway on a regular basis.
None of this, of course, has come about by accident. We are fortunate in Park Forest to have an outstanding staff that works diligently – sometimes against great odds – to see our hopes and dreams be achieved. I want to publicly acknowledge the outstanding work of Economic Development Director Hildy Kingma, of her associate Sandra Zoellner, of Downtown Property Manager Sharon Bellino, and of Economic Development Consultant Sam Montella. They have been assisted by the efforts of Village Manager Tom Mick and Assistant Manager Mary Dankowski, by Larrie Kerrestes of the Building Department, and by all the other members of our staff who lend their expertise whenever it’s needed. Our Village Board is supportive of the work of these professionals because we know that their judgment is sound and that we can trust them constantly to do what’s best for our community and for its residents.
So, despite the occasional sand in our rice or thorn in our Village mud, we’ve learned to take what we have and make it better. That’s always been our single goal, and – lofty though it may be – we get closer to achieving it with each passing day.
The following are the remarks given by Mayor Rick Reinbold of Richton Park, as prepared for delivery:
Now after being on National News as the area hit the hardest by the Tornado, I guess Richton Park is on the Map! I want to thank many of you that came to our aid. We could not have recovered so quickly from this event without your help. There are so many of you that we cannot name you all but you have our heart felt gratitude.
I wish to introduce the newest member to our team Abe Lentner our Economic Development Officer, Abe comes to us by way of the Design Center in Chicago where he served as the Assistant Director. We look forward to him bringing a new member to the Richton Park team Lucie Sophia Lentner, his first daughter born on June 19th as well as industry and sales taxes to the Village of Richton Park.
The Village of Richton Park adopted a five year plan to restore the finances of the Village to a sound long term position. The plan includes rate increases, budget reductions and a limit on the growth of Village personnel. The plan also established policies on the use of one time revenue sources such as development fees to insure that the use of these fees will be for one time expenditures. The five year plan will be updated each year to insure that the village will maintain a sound financial plan in the future.
The finance department has completed a finance policies and procedures manual for all major areas of Village Finance: Investment Policy, Cash Management, Purchasing & Accounts Payable, Capital Assets, Human Resources, Utility Billing, General Ledger, and Information Technology
The Village has adopted a new water leak policy that allows customers to recoup 25% of the cost of a water leak
Business successes are blooming in Richton Park: dedication of the First Step Child Care Center Mixed-Use Building and Beggar’s Pizza, Richton Perk Coffee Café, Perk Express at the Metra Station, Battlegrounds 640 and Joe’s Fish & Chicken. We thank customers that have supported these thriving business in our community.
The Village entered into a redevelopment agreement with Lagestee-Mulder to redevelop the existing Lakewood Plaza including the adjacent vacant 12-acre parcel and former Boz hotdog site. This is a public/private partnership that will result in the development of 131,000 square feet of new commercial retail space. The conceptual site development plan calls for the establishment of four outlots totaling 16,100 square feet and 115,000 of retail space for the main building.
The Village continues to progress with its Town Center initiative. The Village, in conjunction with the Camiros Planning firm, has completed and adopted new zoning standards and design guidelines that will help to guide development. This has already been evidenced with the new Beggar’s Pizza restaurant.
The Village is also courting a mixed use developer from outside the region on a potential development that would include approximately 300 condo units and 75,000 square feet of new retail space. Other planning activities being performed as we speak include the completion of a stormwater management plan for the Town Center including greenway design, streetscape manual, financing plan and traffic study. The Village has also begun to demolish some of the older structures to prepare for new development.
The Las Fuentes subdivision started construction last summer and has pulled construction permits for 17 new homes. This development includes 271 single-family lots, a 12-acre combination K-6 school and park site and a 10-acre commercial site. Las Fuentes is located at the southeast corner of Sauk Trail and Ridgeland Avenue. Last fall, the Village of Richton Park in conjunction with Mill Creek Development broke ground for a Patriot Fund Home whereby all proceeds from the sale of the home will go to assisting veterans who have suffered from the War on Terrorism. All materials, labor, land and infrastructure were donated towards this effort.
The Village has adopted the 2006 International Code Council Codes for residential and commercial building.
Rich South High School has had their building dedication with the addition of classrooms, new cafeteria, and weight room.
For the third consecutive year the Village has received the Governor’s Home Town Award for communities with populations of 10,001-17000 for recognition of the Neighbor to Neighbor Dinner, Senior Thanksgiving Luncheon and Diversity Workshop conducted by the Community Relations Department and Human Relations Commission.
The Farmer’s Market is every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon from now until October 11th at the Metra Parking Lot on Governor and Sauk Trail. Senior day is every 2nd Saturday with 10% discount at participating vendors or get a Gold Card it is better then American Express, you can actually win a prize. Different giveaways each week! Come out and check out our market.
The Village has also started the design of a multi-level parking structure for the Metra parking lot and investigating resources for construction.
Our last project in our oldest TIF (1988) Crossings will be the construction of a community center which has been a long awaited dream of the community. The architect selection process is underway.
The Village has taken a stance on the objection to the acquisition of the EJ&E railroad by Canadian National. The Village has joined TRAC a COG that was formulated with the Village of Naperville and several other villages that will be adversely impacted by this acquisition.