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As new year begins, local mayors focus on some key projects

  • Written by Joe Boyle

pleasure lake  photo 1-4

Photo by Joe Boyle

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett said plans have been set aside this year to revitalize and upgrade Pleasure Lake at 108th Street and Roberts Road. The mayor said a gazebo and walking path around the lake may be part of the project.

The holidays are over but local mayors still have a list of items on their wish lists that they would like to see begin sometime in 2018.

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar has one goal in mind – the development of Harlem Avenue along 103rd Street. The village has hired William Whitmer as the business development director to assist in targeting various projects this year.

“I think he can really help us,” Tokar said. “I just want to see it move forward.”

Tokar mentioned that a craft brewery business will open sometime this year. The owner is still in the process of filing the proper paperwork with the state.

But the mayor would most like to see development of the old Yellow Freight property near 103rd and Harlem, which is now owned by Crown Enterprises.

“The main property there has been a struggle,” Tokar said.

What Tokar puts at the top of his wish list is a Top Golf driving range, an indoor facility which has three levels that allows golfers to swing at a computerized image. The mayor would like to see a facility located just south of 103rd and Harlem.

“I’d love to see a golf range out there,” Tokar said. “I think it would draw in businesses.”

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett said that the city has made progress, although infrastructure upgrades do not always grab headlines.

“We have replaced our sewer lines and we are pretty proud of that,” Bennett said.

But the mayor said there are two projects that he would like to see accomplished. The development of Pleasure Lake at 108th and Roberts Road will be one project that will be worked on this year.

“We would like to put in a gazebo and have a trail around the lake,” Bennett said. “Last year we stocked more fish in the water.”

The Palos Hills mayor would like to see a new public works building built to replace the antiquated facility that dates back to 1968.

“We would like to modernize for our employees and residents,” Bennett said.

Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury is pleased with the new restaurants and a variety of other businesses that have been added to the village the past year. She said the village is working on many long-term projects.

Village officials are reviewing options to replace the shuttered Chuck E. Cheese, which closed officially in November due to frequent disturbances there that sometimes resulted in verbal and physical conflicts that took place outside the restaurant.

“Right now we are working on the pension funds,” Bury said. “We are working on a lot of things that will make us a stronger community.”

The mayor said that Phase II for the promenade along 111th and Cicero Avenue will begin to take shape. The TIF District features anchors such as Mariano’s and Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant. The mayor said as Phase II plans begin to take shape, two established restaurants could be added, along with a retail business.

The mayor does have advice for residents and shoppers who visit Oak Lawn and that is to shop locally.

“The most important message I can give is to shop locally,” Bury said. “These online conglomerates are not adding anything to our economy. My holiday wish is for more residents to go to local stores and support local businesses. It helps the local economy.”

But she adds that Oak Lawn’s economy is growing stronger and more diverse with the addition of the three escape rooms in the village. Escape rooms are an entertainment center in which participants have to solve puzzles and clues. The opening of Buona Beef last month was met with great fanfare that included a “beef-cutting” ceremony.

Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton would like to just see development plans continue for his village.

“We would like to see all the businesses open at the Plaza,” Sexton said of the revised development along 95th and Western Avenue. “We would like to see that happen by the end of the summer.”

His other top priority is the construction of a new community center. Sexton is optimistic that it can occur by the fall.

“We would like to see this done so that young people can have a modern place they can go to,” Sexton said. “And we would like to have a new place for our seniors to enjoy in their retirement.”

Worth Mayor Mary Werner was pleased that refinanced bonds will provide over $700,000 for the village.

“That was pretty exciting,” Werner said. “We got an A-plus credit rating. It took a few months to go through the process and it is great.”

Another highlight, according to Werner, is the additional activities that will be offered at Water’s Edge golf course at 115th and Harlem Avenue. The mayor is hopeful that the village can sell the Lucas Berg property.

Werner also is pleased with the opening of Captain Jack’s Beverages, 7030 W. 111th St., near the village hall. The mayor sees the restaurant as a great addition to the community along 111th Street.

The demolition of the Sabre Room and the future plans for the Sabre Woods development was at the forefront for Hickory Hills Mayor Mike Howley. He said the old Sabre Room, where Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin once performed, was once an icon setting in the city.

But the new Sabre Woods development at 8900 W. 95th St. will be a great boost to the city, Howley said.

An agreement was reached with the Koziarz Group, owners of the property, during a Hickory Hills City Council meeting last spring. The approved ordinance includes a planned unit development (PUD) proposal that would take in the site of the old Sabre Room.

“They need to just get certain services developed,” Howley said. “We have residential agreements for six to eight single-family homes. Any other residential use after that is for ages 55 and over. We just don’t want to put more burden on our school districts. They have a lot of kids going to these schools now and we have to think about them.”

Along with Schools Districts 117 and 230, Howley said that 70 to 75 percent of all real estate has to be set aside for senior housing, according to the agreement.

“They are moving forward,” Howley said about the developers. “They have to contact the MWRD and the Army Corps of Engineers. There is still a lot of planning ahead.”