Residents were full of ideas to improve Forest Park when the steering committee of the village’s comprehensive plan update met March 27 at the community center. The number of people showing up for the committee had shrunk from its 33 original members to 17, but four new people attended.
Residents talked about pedestrian and bike safety, encouraging more single-family homes, a re-do of the CTA stations and improvements at the library. The citizens present also expressed support for keeping the village-owned Altenheim property as a green space.
Four staff members of Images Inc., the village’s comprehensive plan consultants, presented an analysis of the work the company has done so far.
Images looked at three elements of land use in Forest Park—Transportation and Mobility, Land Use and Community Facilities and Services—and then divided the steering committee members into three smaller groups and asked them to kind of brainstorm more specific recommendations regarding the three areas.
Under Transportation and Mobility, all three small groups reported concerns about pedestrian mobility and safety, citing the recent death of a pedestrian on the Circle overpass and the riskiness of trying to pass over I-290 on Harlem or under the expressway on Desplaines Avenue. They presented ideas like widening sidewalks and constructing a pedestrian bridge over the Eisenhower near Beloit Ave. One group suggested lengthening the sidewalk between Roosevelt Road and 22nd Street.
Bike lanes and a link to the Prairie Path were also mentioned as was pedestrian safety around the CTA stations. One idea which surfaced was a commuter shuttle service. Another was creating a kind of “kiss and go” addition to the blue line station. One individual expressed a desire to address the problem of overnight parking.
Regarding land use, all three groups focused on how to develop the Altenheim property. One suggestion that seemed to get some traction was to creation a kind of mini-Rivinia on the property, a kind of all-season concert venue.
The library also got a lot of attention, because it is already running out of space for its many uses and because of the lack of parking around the present facility. If the library chose to add a second story, which is possible structurally, the parking issue would be aggravated. One response to that would be to create a satellite library, which could for example be used as a tech site.
Also mentioned were the creation of incentives to de-convert multi-unit bungalows back to single family dwellings, enforce zoning ordinances, plant trees, repurpose pocket parks, build a parking structure, create a canoe launch on the Des Plaines River, address the problem corner of Harlem Avenue and Jackson Boulevard, attract a theater, and of course somehow find a magic solution to the Proviso East High School problem.
In regards to community facilities and services, one group suggested using Proviso East as a resource instead of viewing it as a problem. Programs for children and youth were mentioned by all three groups. One group brought up the idea of collaborating with the West Cook YMCA in Oak Park to improve enhance the programming for youth already in existence. Also brought up were community gardens, alley repaving, infrastructure improvements to mitigate flooding, decreasing light pollution and instituting a program in which the bars in town would recycle cans and bottles.
The next step for Images is what the village called a “word on the street” outreach program, said Village Administrator Tim Gillian.
“Study team members will be around town talking to residents,” Gillian said. Gillian did not specify how long the program would last or how many residents the consultants would interview.
Following that outreach, Images will prepare a draft plan, they said.
The steering committee will be the first group to see the draft of the plan, followed by approval by the plan commission, presentation to the village council, a public hearing and ratification by the council. The plan is expected to be complete in October.
The www.pictureforestpark.net website is still taking comments and ideas.