Grant money continues to flow into Forest Park before the November elections. 

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) will give Forest Park $20,000 to help plan economic development along the Harlem Avenue corridor between the CTA Green Line stop at Lake Street and the Blue Line Harlem stop at the expressway. 

This is a follow-up grant to a $3,000 consulting grant awarded the village in April. 

The idea is to create a zoning and development plan that builds on the strong public transportation options in the area, including both CTA trains, the Metra and the bus line down Harlem Avenue. 

The City of Evanston also received $25,000 in a similar grant to re-tool the zoning around the Purple Line and Metra lines to make the area more welcoming to pedestrians.

Something similar is planned in Forest Park. 

Working with the zoning board, the grant will help the village change the zoning ordinances for new development on Harlem and Roosevelt Road. Buildings with ground floor commercial rentals, and setbacks closer to the street are to be encouraged as part of the plan.

The village council approved a memo of understanding Oct. 27 with the RTA signed by RTA Project Manager Tony Manno. 

One possible arrangement would be another TIF district on Harlem Avenue to create a way for the village to provide tax incentives to developers to come to Forest Park along the Harlem strip, Manno said in April.

“We usually make a TOD zone that’s about a quarter to half a mile around a train station, but in this case, there’s a whole corridor because Harlem Avenue is such a strong bus route,” Manno said.

Mention was made during the comprehensive plan discussions that Harlem Avenue needs a facelift and possibly rezoning to make the buildings more consistent and present an updated face on the east side of the village. Patches of older single family homes and apartment buildings still remain on the strip.

Grants galore

The Village of Forest Park has been sweeping up the grant money from state agencies in the past year. Here’s a list of grants awarded to the village this year:

  •  $2.3 million awarded from IDOT for streetscape improvements to Roosevelt Road. Fund: Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program.
  • $520,000 for resurfacing and pedestrian ramps for ½ mile of Randolph Street between Harlem and Lathrop Ave. Source: IDOT Highway Improvement Program, FY 2015.
  • $168,520 Assessment Grant for brownfield cleanup of Roos site at park district. Source: Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Portion of $600,000 consortium brownfield assessment grant for Altenheim property. Source: Cook County Dept. of Environmental Control. 
  • $2.5 million for Park District: Parks and Recreation Facility Construction (PARC) grant for new rec center on Roos parcel. Source: Illinois Jobs Now.
  • $1 million for the Park District: No-strings attached grant for new recreation facility at Park. Source: Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Opportunity.
  • $526,325 Illinois Green Infrastructure grant for construction of two permeable alleys and disconnecting downspouts on 80 homes. Source: Illinois Jobs Now.
  • Park District Power Play grant. $2,000 seed money to develop a program modelling health, nutrition and fitness for children ages 5-13. Source: Illinois Association of Park Districts.
  • $23,000 fire apparatus replacement grant. Source: FEMA

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...