The battered condition of Morton Grove's Dempster Street passage took center stage — sometimes in blunt terms — at an open-house meeting on Thursday night.
Hosted by Community and Economic Development Director , the workshop session attracted more than 20 residents and officials, many of whom openly acknowledged the street's dire needs.
An "outdated model"
"We're on a corridor that is at the bottom of its economic life," said Nick Marino, a village resident, during the gathering's 20-minute group input session.
A 45-minute presentation by Said preceded the collaboration period at the , 6140 Dempster St. Said outlined the general history of Morton Grove's main drag, a three-quarter-mile stretch that handles 40,000 vehicles per day, according to a slideshow he displayed.
Said conceded the road's current state represents the "legacy of an outdated model" — one with obsolete planning that limits economic growth. But the gradual redevelopment of larger sites such as the Giordano's at 5990 Dempster St. and the village's Dempster Master Plan have heralded recent promise, Said added.
Dempster Master Plan
The village's strategy, which was initiated more than 10 years ago, includes streetscape reconstruction and gateway signage, among other design-oriented improvements, according to his presentation.
"In reality, it's not all great and it's not all bad," Said said.
He proposed four separate approaches for attendees' consideration:
- A Special Service Area (SSA), which would levy an additional property tax on a specific part of the village to fund redevelopment efforts;
- A Business Improvement District (BID), which would levy an additional property tax on private businesses within a defined region;
- A continuance of market-driven, private-side independence;
- A Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district.
Said's slideshow heavily focused on the fourth option, which would redistribute property taxes to a designated area that the village believes is incapable of luring private investment. This reallocation of taxes is enabled by freezing other taxing bodies' shares upon TIF creation, Said added.
Generating more ideas
The TIF option was the most popular route during the discussion, which you can read more about . One thing of unanimous consent was the need for big change.
How exactly that transformation could be attained generated more discussion among group members. After one participant suggested village government pursue big-box retailers, resident John Pitron expressed concern over the area's current plotting scheme.
"Those things, I think, are not going to work, "You need bigger properties. You need bigger buildings."
Other future ideas included lowering the street segment's speed limit, relocating the public library to a more central location and further developing The Morton Grove Train Station's surroundings on Lehigh Avenue.
Halfway through the 7 p.m. meeting, Village Mayor Dan Staackmann assured the audience these various proposals would be taken into consideration but that the input session was for "information-gathering only." Nonetheless, he said Dempster Street's redevelopment is a pressing issue.
"We've got to do something on Dempster Street," he added. "We know that."
Said confirmed at the meeting's close that a similar workshop session would be slated for late June or early July to accommodate those who could not attend Thursday night. Following that "rerun" assembly, he said the next step would be to provide a summary report to the village board.