The CTA Blue Line parking lot north of Van Buren Street will get a makeover, the village voting to go out to bid on the project, which will be funded by a recently unfrozen 2014 Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) grant. But the decision was not unanimous and was met with prolonged discussion about the possibility of adding green infrastructure into the project.

Commissioner Jessica Voogd, who has proven to be a proponent of environmental concerns during her time in office, acknowledged that the project was originally bid on in 2014, prior to green construction being as important as it’s become in the years since. But she said she wanted to know what the village could do to incorporate more environmentally friendly concepts into the project rather than simply using the original plan.

“It’s shocking to me that [the current plan] is just tearing up the asphalt and putting it back down,” said Voogd.

Village Administrator Tim Gillian said the grant was awarded in 2014, at which time the village actually went out to bid. The project, however, was halted when the grant was frozen. In 2020 the money was released, but the same amount as in 2014 with no additional given for inflation or extra costs.

Gillian said he spoke to Jim Amelio of Christopher B. Burke Engineering, the village’s engineering firm, about adding green space, including plants and bushes, to the parking lot.

“It’s not as good as an entirely green lot,” said Gillian, but brick pavers, for example, would add around $750,000 to the project, more than doubling the DCEO funding amount of $480,000, money that would come from the village’s general fund.

“When starting [a project] from scratch, we will add more green infrastructure,” said Gillian, who went on to say that for this particular project, given the limited grant amount and necessity to do this quickly before the money is potentially frozen again, it’s not a prudent decision to hold up the project now to add in green elements. He also said beginning work on the project now, when the CTA lot is almost empty during the days, would make the work easier to accomplish.

For this project, Gillian said he’d ask Amelio to create a “down and dirty” landscape plan to add as an addendum to the project specifications.

Voogd made a motion to table the discussion until the next meeting, giving Amelio and the village time to sit down and see what green elements could be added. She said an entirely new plan wasn’t necessarily what she was looking for, but she hoped for something a little more comprehensive so the village isn’t “just tacking trees on the backend.”

“I would like to see it done in a thoughtful manner,” said Voogd.

But the vote to table the discussion only had two votes, hers and mayor Rory Hoskins’, and the vote was made to go out to bid now.

“Going forward,” said Hoskins, “it would be nice to see alternatives. We have a lot of potential in Forest Park.” He urged Gillian to communicate with the commissioners, especially Voogd (Commissioner of Public Property) and Ryan Nero (Commissioner of Streets and Public Improvements), on green initiatives for future projects.

Gillian said he would but added that “for this project, there are not a lot of options.”