The transformation of Madison Street over the past decade is remarkable. It speaks to the power that comes when government, the business community and the marketplace share a united vision.
Now, an important effort is underway to build that vision into a zoning ordinance which would spell out what types of businesses are welcome on Madison Street, what business uses are better situated on upper floors, and, notably, what sorts of businesses Forest Park can do without.
The changes proposed by the BID group for the new zoning ordinance represent a positive step towards securing a bright future for Forest Park.
The plan also allows for a method of fixing the street's worstâ€"and still growingâ€"problem of parking. By encouraging parking garages with retail frontage, and possibly residential on upper floors, the plan recognizes the oomph that can come with the mix of new stores, new residents and adequate parking.
Looking down Madison Street today it is clear that many of these desired changes are already taking place and putting the new allowable uses to law just helps solidify the progress we are making.
Also of note is the diminution of liquors sway in this plan. While all existing businesses are grand-fathered in, the clear emphasis is away from bars and toward retail and food establishments which include liquor.
It has not been easy to be Forest Park's Community Development director these past years. Nancy Hill, the latest village hall official to move to a less contentious future, had too big a job, not enough help, and the burden of balancing demands from developers who have discovered Forest Park and some residents who wish they hadn't.
All things considered, Hill did a good job and Forest Park is in a better place than at her arrival. But, as in any such case, her departure is an opportunity to reassess the position and the needs at village hall. The experience of new Village Administrator Mike Sturino in planning and development may make it possible, as Commission Mark Hosty suggests, to refocus Hill's post on zoning and enforcement. If there is a critical hole in village services, zoning enforcement may the chronic need.
That the village now has two top jobs to fillâ€"following Joan White's resignation a week backâ€"also begs the line of command question. This is the moment when the council and Sturino need to clarify, both in the hiring process and the reporting mechanism, who key department heads actually work for. It will come as no surprise that this page wants the clarity and the accountability that comes from having all department heads work for the administrator.