Group holds workshop on long-range planning
by BRIAN NADIG
Better incentives for young entrepreneurs and the elimination of tax breaks for vacant properties were among the issues that residents discussed 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 held the workshop in a tent in the parking lot at Fischman’s Liquors, 4780 N. Milwaukee Ave. After the workshop, members of the group discussed a proposal to close an alley across the street from the Jefferson Park CTA terminal to vehicle traffic.
Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning outreach coordinator Jane Grover said that a draft of the agency’s 2050 plan should be completed next year and that it will be based on themes participants suggest at workshops that are being held in 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 municipalities working together and agreeing 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, which prompted a resident to recommend that the governments be consolidated.
One business owner said that recent college graduates often cannot start a business because their college loan debt and health insurance costs are too high. The woman said that there should be improved access to capital, including loans, for those looking to start a business.
Concern also was expressed that the pace of construction has been 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, eliminating the urgency to build.
Other recommendations involved transportation, including the need for east-west train routes in the city and more pedestrian- and bike-friendly features along roads.
Grover said that one of the more interesting comments that she has received about the regional plan came from suburban fifth graders who said 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 that the plan may address is the difficulty that 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 move 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 email@example.com.
Also at the meeting Jefferson Park Forward president Ryan Richter said that the group will meet 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," Richter said.
There are one residential property and two commercial properties 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 CTA station, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., and the south end faces the Jefferson Park fieldhouse, 4822 N. Long Ave.
Last year an urban planning coalition examined alternate uses for the alley.
Arena’s business development coordinator Ed Bannon announced that a consultant will be hired later this year to help create 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 members of the group recently planted flowers in front of the Jefferson Park post office, 5401 W. Lawrence Ave.
The group’s next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 21. The location will be announced at www.jeffersonparkforward.org.