Written by Pam DeFiglio
On his 100th day as mayor of Morton Grove on Wednesday, Dan DiMaria interrupted an interview with a reporter to greet his neighbors, who were walking by.
"I love this town," he said enthusiastically. It's a phrase he utters frequently.
Then he ticked off some of the things he's worked on in the slightly over three months he was sworn in on May 13.
They include appointing an economic development director, holding a town hall meeting (on assault weapons), holding a breakfast for businesses in the industrial corridor, having the mayor and staff attend the International Conference of Shopping Centers conference, representing municipalities in Springfield on behalf of the Northwest Municipal Conference, and hiring consultant Houseal Lavigne to develop a strategic plan for Morton Grove.
Earlier: Morton Grove Envisions Bright Future, Hires Consultant To Map It
Of those, he is most excited about the strategic plan.
"It's the first step in moving Morton Grove forward," he said. "It will have input from residents, staff, other taxing bodies. It will be a vision for our community."
A key part of the strategic plan will be the opportunities it outlines for economic development, an issue DiMaria promised to champion. He said that after meeting a broker "for a restaurant with a name we all know" at the ICSC conference, he spent Tuesday showing that broker around Morton Grove looking at potential sites and getting some good feedback.
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He said he wasn't trying to eclipse the excellent work of economic development director Nancy Radzewicz, but wanted to show businesses the mayor is personally invested in courting businesses.
"I was proud to be one of the few mayors at the ICSC, and I think that's why (the broker) came out so fast," DiMaria said.
DiMaria acknowledged other issues in town, such as the flooding, the outdated police station and the partially-vacant Prairie View Plaza, need attention. He says he and the board and staff have started working on those.
He said the village will address flooding issues, but it will take time. He has formed a Police Facility Committee to look at the situation with the police station.
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"There's no question a new police station is needed," he said. "I want the police force in a facility where they're safe. We're moving forward quickly but prudently."
He is optimistic Prairie View Plaza will have more occupancy and more vibrancy within two years.
"I'm hoping the agent and owner will work with us to get that corner to its full potential," he said.
The village has also done some re-classifying of liquor licenses in order to draw more eating and drinking establishments to town, he said.
"I do want to thank all the residents who have stepped up to help," he said. "They really care about Morton Grove, and I'm overwhelmed by all the support and help."