Upgrades eyed for 95th Street, Ridgeland Avenue
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org February 21, 2014 8:42PM
Simple facade and sign changes could breathe new life into businesses along Ridgeland Avenue, such as some of these in the 10500 block of Ridgeland in Chicago Ridge, a study suggests. | Steve Metsch~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 23, 2014 12:36PM
Sweeping changes that could include landscaped medians, a recreational path, more parking and improved business facades may be coming to two of the busiest thoroughfares in the southwest suburbs.
A study offering ideas to spruce up Ridgeland Avenue from 79th to 135th streets was discussed at a recent meeting in Palos Heights. It’s closely tied to another study on improving 95th Street in Oak Lawn, a plan that’s open for public review from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Oak Lawn Village Hall.
On Thursday, a large crowd turned out for the meeting on the Ridgeland Avenue study at the Palos Heights Recreation Center, 6601 W. 127th St. Jodi Mariano, a landscape architect for Teska, the urban planning firm that did the study, told those in attendance that Ridgeland Avenue is filled with possibilities for business growth and beautification.
“If there’s something you like, tell us. If there’s something you don’t like, tell us. And if there’s something that we’ve missed, please tell us,” Mariano told the audience. “We are looking for ways to make the roadway safer for pedestrians and bikers.”
Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar said he was excited to see the drawings of a streetscape that included old-fashioned streetlighting and a landscaped median. He also liked the idea of encouraging businesses to improve their exteriors.
“Isn’t this nice? It really shows a lot of vision, a lot of hard work here,” Tokar said of the study by Teska. “... To look at the facade improvements, I think it would be fabulous. I could see telling the business owner that if they’re willing to put in some money, the village could help to a certain amount. But some things aren’t too expensive — an awning, fresh paint, it’s all very doable.”
And when such exterior work is done, he said, it could be infectious, with businesses trying to keep up with one other.
Chicago Ridge Trustee Sally Durkin was interested in the streetscape ideas presented by Bridget Lane, director of Business Districts Inc., including a village-owned parking lot at the now-vacant southeast corner of Ridgeland and 106th Street.
“I’m just worried about funding the next step,” Durkin said. “Any improvement would be great. The bike trail would be great. So would an ice cream shop or restaurant.”
Simple facade changes can mean more profit for a business, according to Lane.
“Independent owners are so busy with their business, they don’t step back and say, ‘Are there some inexpensive things I can do?’ Typically, a business that remodels increases sales by 10 (percent) or 15 percent,” Lane said. “We think it would happen along here (Ridgeland). You have great exposure and nice communities.”
Worth Mayor Mary Werner said her village’s stretch of Ridgeland Avenue mostly is residential, but she’d like to see the towns within the corridor cooperate on improvements. She cited Alsip, Burbank, Chicago Ridge, Oak Lawn, Palos Heights and Worth.
Janet Evans, a Palos Heights resident, is more interested in joint beautification efforts.
“I think if we combine with other towns and decide how we can make Ridgeland look good from the beginning to the end of the corridor ... it would be a good thing. We could have special events and fundraisers to help,” Evans said.
Mariano said installing a raised, landscaped median would cause drivers to slow down, a prospect that several residents said they would welcome.
As for the 8- to 10-foot wide recreational path proposed in the study, Deanna Sandei, of Oak Lawn, a bicycling enthusiast, said he would love to see such a trail to provide safer access to a trail system in the Cook County forest preserves near Tinley Park and Oak Forest.
“I’m interested in the safety of everyone along Ridgeland. One suggestion was parking on Ridgeland. We know parking and bicycles don’t go hand in hand,” Sandei said. “I also want to find out about getting safely to the Cal-Sag (trail).”
At the Feb. 11 Oak Lawn Village Board meeting on the 95th Street improvements, Mariano shared ideas such as wider sidewalks, landscaped medians complete with sculptures and more parking at the rear of businesses as ways to improve that main commercial route through the village.
Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th) was impressed by what he heard.
“It’s all positive stuff. Put a little art on there (in the medians), and we’re the next Flossmoor or Evanston. I do think art has a value, but you have to be careful on the median because you don’t want to block the drivers’ views,” said Vorderer, a former police officer.