Local mayors are cautiously optimistic about 2016

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Southwest suburban mayors have their hands full as they enter a new year dealing with tighter budgets and uncertainty in Springfield . However, ongoing projects are reason for optimism

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar said that he can’t wait until Miller’s Ale House is completed at the corner of 95th and Ridgeland Avenue outside of Chicago Ridge Mall. Miller’s Ale House replaces Tilted Kilt, which closed abruptly this fall.

“I can’t wait until Miller’s Ale House opens up,” said Tokar. “They have great food and we have heard great things about them. They are way ahead of schedule.”

Workers were busy with the framework of the building on Tuesday morning. Tokar said the workers have been busy and have taken advantage of the mild December temperatures. Tokar said that if the weather cooperates, Miller’s Ale House could open at the end of March or the beginning of April.

Tokar said at the top of his list is the Harlem Avenue TIF District, specifically the area surrounding 103rnd and Harlem. The mayor would like to see some development there.

“We would like to get a shovel in the ground there soon,” Tokar said.

The mayor also would like to see RTA associated development occur soon. The Southwest Conference of Mayors was able to get a $1 million grant for local municipalities for development with the RTA’s assistance. Chicago Ridge will receive $800,000 in RTA grant money for development.

“That will be great,” said Tokar. “We could use new signage and new pedestrian sidewalks. I’m pretty excited about it.”

Tokar is realistic that much will depend on movement in Springfield. He is pleased that Gov. Rauner signed a bill and the Senate released funds for the motor fuel tax, 911 system and video gaming. Tokar does not side with either Rauner or House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd).

“I don’t just blame one person,” he said. “I blame them both. Until they get this settled, we are just going to have to be careful.”

Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton is looking forward to when the Evergreen Park Marketplace is built. The Marketplace is replacing The Plaza, which fell to the wrecking ball this fall. The iconic structure that was built in 1952 had become dated and was in decline for years. The Marketplace will be more efficient and will have several notable retail businesses. The mayor said there will be a little more than 30 businesses at the Marketplace.

Carson’s was a longtime fixture of The Plaza and continued operating even when the mall had become nearly vacant. A new Carson’s will be built to replace the old one. Sexton can’t wait for that to happen.

“I would like to hear the cash registers at Carson’s,” said Sexton. “They are rolling along over there. They are moving quickly.”

Sexton said the new Carson’s could be completed by the end of July. The mayor said that some restaurants and retail businesses have been contacted. He said that it is too soon to mention any names.

“We are talking to a few of them and it is our hope that some of them will come to fruition,” said Sexton.

Hickory Hills Mayor Mike Howley said that he has a few projects he would like to see get off the ground. The 2016 Beautification Program comes to mind first. The removal of diseased trees is a priority for the city. Thirty trees will be replanted in each of the city’s four wards.

Howley said that the trees that will be removed will be replaced by trees designed to flourish and avoid becoming victims of diseases.

New water meters will be a boost for Hickory Hills, according to Howley. The new devices will be able to determine if there are leaks or other defects in a home.

“These are services that may not sound sexy but are important,” said Howley, who also pointed to sanitary sewer system replacements through a $150,000 block grant.

Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury is looking forward to more development of the 111th Street Stony Creek Promenade TIF District. A pancake house will be built just east of Mariano’s. The mayor said she hopes to have an announcement about Phase 2 of the projects.

The next direct phase is Stony Creek North at the nearby old Edgar Funeral Home property. Bury is confident that an announcement will be made soon on a specific project.

Bury said that she would like to see plans for a permanent senior center facility. While the Johnson-Phelps VFW Post has indicated they would be interested in helping, nothing has been decided.

“We are still looking at ideas,” said Bury. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Wednesday for the expansion of Advocate Christ Medical Center.

“Oak Lawn is open for business and we are excited about the future,” added Bury.

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett said the city is working on economic development. A $15 million nursing home will open in June. Webb Chevy is coming to Palos Hills.

Bennett said the one difficulty for Palos Hills is that it is surrounded by malls. It has been difficult to draw businesses to the community. But Bennett is encouraged by some of the businesses that have come to the city.

“We have challenges,” said Bennett. “We are working on filling vacant businesses. But we are moving forward like most other towns. We just have to be very cautious.”

Worth Mayor Mary Werner would like to see more development along 111th Street, including money from CMAP for development near the Metra train stations. The medicinal marijuana dispensary will open sometime this month. Werner said that it will bring more revenue to the village but also something more.

“One of the key things is that it could draw more people to the village who have never come here before,” said Werner. “I look at this as a win-win situation.”

Werner would also like to see some development along 111th Street. A new Italian café shop will open soon that will specialize in fresh foods. The Italian deli could open by the end of January.