Homewood open space project on hold
BY GINGER BRASHINGER Correspondent February 13, 2014 6:18PM
This rendering shows what Homewood is planning for an open-space area along Martin Avenue north of Ridge Road. | Supplied image
Updated: February 17, 2014 2:05AM
A project that would close off a portion of a street in downtown Homewood to create a village green is on hold, pending more community involvement in the planning process.
Residents packed Tuesday night’s village board meeting and voiced their concerns about the project, with many saying they knew little or nothing about it.
The village board last month approved moving forward with the estimated $500,000 project that’s to be funded by revenue from a special taxing district. Village manager Jim Marino said the village must use the funds for economic development by Dec. 31.
The board’s vote to approve the final design fell short by one vote, and Mayor Richard Hofeld indicated another public meeting would be held on the plan before trustees vote again.
The plan now calls for closing Martin Avenue north of Ridge Road for about 100 feet, at which point the street would open to two-way traffic.
The former section of the street would become open space, including an ice rink, fire pit, special lighting, bistro tables, seasonal planters and benches, among other amenities. The design also includes a roundabout.
On Tuesday, Lawrence Hamer, a 15-year Homewood resident and DePaul University professor, told trustees that he was unaware of the project and urged them to delay a vote.
“I think (it’s) not the right time because of the lack of awareness of this project in the community,” Hamer said.
Three public meetings as well as meetings with business owners, taxing bodies and focus groups were held between the beginning of November and the end of December, community development director Paula Wallrich said.
But some residents said holding those meetings during the holidays was not a good idea and that communication to the public was poor.
“You need to find another way to do that because a whole lot of folks didn’t get that information,” resident Clarence Simmons said.
Jose Magan, a landscape architect, said he believed the village board needed to take more time planning the project.
“You can create spaces that are less expensive for the community,” Magan said.
One resident said she thought the village green concept was “lovely” but asked, “is this the best use of what are essentially public funds?”
Wallrich said the project was a “textbook example” of how public funds should be used, saying there would be both “tangible and intangible benefits” to Homewood over time.
Trustees Ann Colton and Lisa Purcell voted against approving the design Tuesday night. Purcell said after the vote that she understood “people’s need for more information” and was confident the project would advance once residents know more about it.
Colton agreed with residents that communication had been ineffective, saying that in her five years as a trustee she had “never seen a project move this quickly.”
Trustees Ray Robertson and Barbara Dawkins and Hofeld voted to approve the project design, but because trustees Tom Kataras and Jay Heiferman were absent, the board’s vote fell one short of the four needed for approval.