Ideas for regional plan sought at Jeff Forward meeting

by BRIAN NADIG

Better incentives for young entrepreneurs and the elimination of tax breaks for vacant properties were among the issues which  residents raised at a June 16 workshop on the creation of a long-range regional plan to make the Chicago area more livable.

The Jefferson Park Forward neighborhood group hosted the workshop, which was held in a tent in the parking lot at Fischman’s Liquors, 4780 N. Milwaukee Ave. After the workshop, Forward members discussed a proposal to close off an alley across from the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal to vehicle traffic.

Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning outreach coordinator Jane Grover said that a draft of the 2050 plan should be completed next year and that it will be based on common themes which stakeholders raise at workshops that are being held throughout the the seven-county metropolitan area. A copy of the 2040 plan was distributed at the June 16 meeting.

Grover said that the success of a regional plan depends on the cooperation of municipalities to work together and to agree on common goals. It was reported at the meeting that there are more than 4,000 municipal, school and other governmental units  in the metropolitan area, prompting a recommendation from the audience for government consolidation.

One local business owner said that recent college graduates too often cannot start their own business because their college loan debt and health insurance costs are too high. She recommended that there be improved access to capital, including loans, for those looking to start a business.

Concerns also were raised at the meeting that the pace of construction is slowed because builders have to deal with different building codes throughout the region and that in some instances land has remained undeveloped for decades because owners receive a vacant property credit on their tax bills, taking away the urgency to build.

Other recommendations involved transportation concerns, including the need for east-west train routes in the city and more pedestrian- and bike-friendly features along roadways.

Grover said that one of the more interesting comments which she has received about the regional plan came from suburban fifth-graders who told her that the advancement of self-driving cars will play an important role. “They see this for their aging grandparent,” she said.

One of the issues which the plan may address is the difficulty which employers in Lake County have had in recruiting millennials because of a  lack of adequate public transportation and convenience of recreational amenities, Grover said. In recent years several large corporations have announced plans to relocate from the suburbs to Downtown Chicago in effort to help recruit young professionals.

The planning agency is asking that ideas for the regional plan be e-mailed to onto2050@cmap.illinois.gov.

Also at the meeting Forward president Ryan Richter reported that the group will be meeting with Alderman John Arena (45th) to discuss the possibility of converting an alley which runs between Higgins Avenue and Milwaukee Avenue into a pedestrian pathway. “A lot of people use the alley as a shortcut if they live south of the park to go to the transit center,” he said.

There are one residential and two commercial properties located along the alley, and none of them require use of the alley to gain access to their parking, Richter said. The north end of the alley faces the transit center, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., and the south end faces the Jefferson Park fieldhouse, 4822 N. Long Ave.

Last year an urban planning coalition examined alternative uses for the alley.

Also, Arena’s business development coordinator Ed Bannon announced that a consultant will be hired later this year to help with the creation of a master plan for Jefferson Park. “The main thing is we want it to be an action plan,” he said.

It also was reported that Forward members recently planted new flowers in front of the Jefferson Park post office, 5401 W. Lawrence Ave.

Forward’s next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 21. The location has not been determined and will be announced at www.jeffersonparkforward.org.

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