Campaign for Sensible Growth and ULI Chicago Release Results of 2003 Technical Assistance Panels in Park Forest, Riverdale - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Campaign for Sensible Growth and ULI Chicago Release Results of 2003 Technical Assistance Panels in Park Forest, Riverdale

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The Campaign for Sensible Growth and Urban Land Institute (ULI) Chicago released the results of recent technical assistance panels (TAPs) they conducted in Park Forest and Riverdale, Ill. While the communities’ challenges — converting a regional mall into a thriving downtown in Park Forest and improving a deteriorating housing complex in Riverdale — are specific to each village, their solutions can be applied broadly throughout the Chicago region.

The Campaign and ULI Chicago have been partners on locally requested TAPs since 2001, and the concept is catching on.

“The TAP process gives communities access to the expertise of real estate, planning and development professionals,” said Ellen Shubart, manager of the Campaign. “And, the whole region benefits from the opportunity to put sensible growth principles into practice. Each TAP provides a lens into how policy works in the real world, and a case study for how to approach similar problems successfully in other communities.”

Building on the Legacy: Creating a New DownTown , released Oct. 1, recommends reinvigorating the site of Park Forest’s mall as a downtown with a more dynamic mix of uses. The TAP suggests concentrating the amount of retail space by clustering shops of similar types, and freeing up space to develop 325 new homes downtown to yield as many as 700 new shoppers.

“We’d like to start implementing these things tomorrow,” said Park Forest Village President John Ostenberg. “The biggest handicap is cost.” Like other municipalities in Cook County, Park Forest has high property tax rates, which makes attracting development a challenge. The panel suggested a variety of funding sources, including Community Development Block Grants, so that the community might avoid tapping into general revenues to jump-start retail redevelopment.

A Vision for the Pacesetter Neighborhood, also released Oct. 1, makes the bold suggestion that Riverdale turn around its troubled Pacesetter housing complex by helping low-income renters buy their homes, to give them a stake in the community. The panel emphasized the importance of providing social services — not simply financing — to participating Pacesetter residents, many of whom had relocated from apartments within the Chicago Housing Authority.

“Successful housing is far more than physical shelter,” said Riverdale Panelist John Powell, a vice president for the Fannie Mae Foundation. “Things like social services and ‘greening up’ the area to make it a better place to live will be vital to the success of these plans.”

In a special arrangement, the Campaign and ULI Chicago volunteers will follow up with the Village of Riverdale throughout the coming year to guide implementation of its TAP recommendations.

The Campaign and ULI Chicago have joined together on TAPs in northeastern Illinois because such technical assistance furthers both organizations’ goals of helping municipalities plan for growth with techniques that make sensible use of existing infrastructure and preserve open space. Information on the series of panels and past reports are available on the Campaign Web site .

Progress in Highland Park demonstrates the impact past TAPs have had. In August, the City adopted a housing ordinance requiring developers of projects with more than five units to include 20 percent of the total units for sale or rent at rates affordable to income-qualified households . Highland Park also established a home ownership program that makes homes available to people who work in the city but cannot afford to live there. Both were recommendations made in 2001 by a Campaign/ULI Chicago TAP. At that time, the North Shore suburb had a median home sale price of $377,035, and was seeking strategies to create and preserve a better range of housing types for local residents at various income levels.

The Urban Land Institute is a national, nonprofit education and research institute that is supported by its members. Its mission is to provide responsible leadership in the use of land in order to enhance the total environment. ULI Chicago consists of more than 800 ULI members living and working in the Chicago region. One of the first ULI District Councils formed, today it is one of the largest in the nation.

The Campaign for Sensible Growth is an action-oriented coalition of nearly 200 government, civic and business leaders in northeastern Illinois' six counties (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will) working to promote economic development while preserving open space, minimizing the need for costly new infrastructure, and improving the livability of our communities.

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