The Roosevelt Road corridor through Forest Park is going to get a facelift sooner rather than later.

The Village of Forest Park received a $2.3 million grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation for streetscape and beautification improvements to Roosevelt Road between Harlem and Desplaines Avenues, the village announced late Friday.

The IDOT funds, plus money gradually generated by two new Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts should push along much-anticipated improvements to Roosevelt, which is an IDOT thoroughfare.

 “A new and improved Roosevelt Road has been an aspiration of mine since we finished Madison Street back in 2000, and finding a funding source has been challenging,” said Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone in a statement.

  “Coupling this grant with TIF dollars should really give us enough capital to make some outstanding improvements to the area,” he added. “Roosevelt Road will experience a revitalization which should marry well with the improvements made by our neighbors to the east.”

Three years ago, the Village of Oak Park, the City of Berwyn and the Town of Cicero cooperated in a three-village initiative to give Roosevelt Road a boost between Austin and Harlem. State and federal funds were used for the construction of benches, bump-outs, planters, slate sidewalk accents and decorative lighting. Those improvements cost around $9 million: About $4 million came from a grant from the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program, which was federal money administered through the state of Illinois. Another $2 million came from IDOT and $2.5 million came from the three municipalities.

Forest Park has long sought to continue those improvements west.

The village applied for a grant from ITEP in January of 2013, but did not receive it.

The village’s new infrastructure plan includes an engineering survey for Roosevelt Road and a plan to start digging in the 2016 construction season, said Village Administrator Tim Gillian.

“We’re probably still on the original timeline,” he said. “We were hoping and counting on some money from the state,” he said.

Gillian said Calderone had a one-on-one meeting with Governor Pat Quinn and pitched the Roosevelt corridor.

 “Thanks to the mayor’s work down in Springfield, we got some notice that [the grant] was happening. We’re putting the touches on the agreement now,” Gillian said. 

Quinn was quoted in the village press release as saying: “Improving Roosevelt Road will have a double benefit — the project will create construction jobs, and spur continued economic development in Forest Park.” 

TIF district will add to streetscape funds

At the village’s May 27 council meeting, financial consultants from Kane, McKenna and Associates submitted a new, revised TIF map of Roosevelt Road. There are two TIFs being planned for the north and south sides of Roosevelt. The districts will offer tax and financial incentives to developers who wish to build projects within the zone.

The boundaries for the TIF district were tweaked in the most recent version of the district to make a contiguous strip along the north side of Roosevelt Road. Previously, the TIF district skipped several apartment buildings.

A majority of the structures on the strip are 35 years or older, so the TIF falls into the “conservation” category, a Kane McKenna representative told the village council. A conservation area is defined when a business strip has structures that are dilapidated, obsolete, deteriorated, below code, excessive vacancies, demonstrate a lack of community planning, has overcrowded structures or has declined in value. When five of these conditions are met in 50 percent of the contiguous properties, the TIF is allowed by state code because a “reasonable person will conclude that public intervention is necessary,” Illinois code says.

Kane McKenna’s update said they would carry on with the TIF documentation so the village could begin planning for use of the development funds.

Two TIFs currently exist. One is for the Walmart site, which is about to expire. The other covers the Forest Park Mall area.



Twitter: @FP_Review

This story has been updated to clarify the expiration dates of the other TIFs near Roosevelt Road. 

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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