A plan was in place, as was a developer.
Yet in June 2011, the only buildings standing within the triangle of land between the Metra Southwest Service train tracks, 143rd Street and LaGrange Road are mostly within the Orland Plaza – a shopping center that existed long before the idea for a downtown within that area came to be.
Between the initial idea for a downtown center within the triangle and summer 2011, one of the greatest economic downturns the United States has seen led to changes in plans.
The idea for a walkable, mixed use, modern housing, transit-centered development remains. What exactly that will look like when finished remains to be seen, though the village says they are still talking with a developer.
What is certain? Pieces of land were acquired and fixed up by the village within the triangle, and an eminent domain case is still in litigation, despite a judge’s ruling in favor of the village in 2010. Though there are signs an end could be near.
In part three of our discussion about the Main Street Triangle project, Mayor Dan McLaughlin, Village Manager Paul Grimes and Assistant Village Manager Ellen Baer talk about the current vision for the development, and how traffic factors in.
Patch: How has the plan changed over time?
Village Manager Paul Grimes: This is an old plan approved by the board from Related Midwest. We mutually parted ways with them about three or four years ago.
Assistant Village Manager Ellen Baer: The market changed considerably since this was designed.
Paul Grimes: So some things in this plan won’t exist but the theme will be the same. A transit-orientated development. A downtown feel with streets, very pedestrian friendly.
We know the demographics here. Orland Park is an aging baby boomer type of community. That’s good. We want them to stay. We want them to have places to go and things to do. A lot are empty nesters. We want them to stay and have an interesting gathering place.
But you also want to attract young people. You want to have a place for them to come. Those are the future homeowners, and those are the people raising their kids in our school system.
If you don’t have a vision with high quality, you just become another suburb. Then people go on to the next suburb. But if you anchor it with something that’s unique and attractive…like what Naperville has done. Naperville has a great downtown area. They invested lots of money. They did TIFs. That’s what we’re trying to achieve here. We have to think of the future in terms of how to make a sustainable community and keep it attractive to maintain the balance of the empty nesters, the young people and the seniors. That’s what makes a community.
The vision is that you’d have commercial retail along LaGrange that gets the visibility. Some restaurants, with a boardwalk all around. The pond. A number of things. You have the Crescent Park, which is a terrific venue for public green. Mixed use in the middle. Retail or restaurants on the ground floor. Housing units on top.
Ellen Baer: And connectivity to the south on the bottom. That’s already built. That has a connection across the tracks to Old Orland or across on 143rd to the civic corridor.
Mayor Dan McLaughlin: What we’re looking at now (motions toward older map of Triangle plan) is not what it will be. It’s changed over the years for different reasons. When Related Midwest started working on this, they originally envisioned underground parking under Crescent Park. That would’ve saved surface parking from taking up space. But the soil didn’t allow for it.
This plan has probably taken half a dozen different forms. At campaign times they’ll say, “it’s changing” and ask why. And no one takes the time to understand the background and how complicated it is, and they jump to conclusions to make something negative. The fine-tuning has made it a better project.
Paul Grimes: The vision is the same. Transit development. Mixed use. Higher density. A combination of residential, retail, entertainment, restaurants. Probably there will be some sort of a grocer food purveyor type of place. Obviously we’re looking at developing this area first (just to the west of the plaza). That’s vacant right now.
We’re in negotiations with a developer out of Indiana. That’s still in play. We don’t have anything officially to report. But we do think we are making progress and we’ll have something soon. When it’s rolled out, I think people will see it’s high quality.
Mayor McLaughlin: It’ll be something everybody will be proud of. You’ll see on Friday and Saturday nights, people walking all over the place. People living there will be able to someday walk potentially to a grocery store or to outdoor cafes.
Paul Grimes: The road project out there now is all a part of this. Yes, it has to be built to state specifications, but we’re investing quite a bit of money to upgrade the improvements in making them downtown-orientated gateway features. Pedestrian features.
We undergrounded all the utilities. You may have driven by and noticed all those power lines are gone.
Mayor McLaughlin: It really opened it up.
Paul Grimes: 142nd Street will be full access with a light. And this will be a major pedestrian corridor linking Orland Crossing with the downtown area. There will be another major pedestrian crossing, and a bike path will be installed this year, which will link to the bike trail system that goes all the way to the thousands of acres east of Orland and to Oak Forest and Tinley Park.
Activating all this makes a more ready market for the antique shops. People who go antiquing have an interest and are usually at a certain economic income level, and you’ll have a lot of that coming to the downtown area. There is a plan for all this, and part of it is to create that linkage. The road project is major. Ravinia will be fully signalized with heavy pedestrian features.
Mayor McLaughlin: This is a minor tie in, but when I came in as mayor Ravinia did not go all the way through to 159th Street. Now we’re going through to Costco. When something develops on that lower property, it will continue further south.
People taking the train will be able to get in their car and go all the way down Ravinia to about 162nd Street and almost never have to use LaGrange Road.
Ellen Baer: Having those collector streets are important for people who come here to shop and residents who want to get in and out of the shopping centers. And those just driving through. They all have other routes to take.
Mayor McLaughlin: If people have these other routes, and LaGrange Road is widened in the next year or two, the traffic flow will be less aggravating and people will return.
Paul Grimes: From a regional perspective, CMAP has Go to 2040, a comprehensive plan for the region. We think this is consistent with that. The regional folks are encouraging these for communities to endeavor upon. There is regional context in creating these links with transportation when planning out community.
We’ve engaged the folks at CMAP. We think they’ll be very supportive of this project because of the themes.
Patch: Which developer are you still in talks with?
Paul Grimes: Flaherty and Collins (Properties) out of Indianapolis are still interested. They have expressed interest in other parcels. That’s something we’ll address in the context of an agreement. I think a number of folks would be interested in future phases. We’ll let the market place drive that. Right now we’re focused on the first phase, which we hope to be a catalyst for future phases, and it generates excitement and traffic and people you need to beget the additional phases.
On Tuesday, village officials talked about what led to the original Triangle plan.
On Wednesday, officials discussed what led to eminent domain proceedings.
On Friday, questions and answers will focus on talks with Plaza tenants and whether resources put into the Triangle can be recovered.