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Worth, planning agency to partner on economic development study

By Laura Bollin

Worth village officials and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning are working together on a six-month study to determine what types of developments would most benefit residents.

Worth Trustee Colleen McElroy, chairman of the Village Board's economic development committee, said the focus of the study is to find an attainable development plan for the village's business district.

"We need a good, workable guide," McElroy said. "The business plan we have for the town is a little bit unattainable. It suggests moving the Village Hall to a non-business location because the location is perfect for business, but that would cost way too much money. It did give some good recommendations, like making the community more walkable. We are going to focus on the hub where Metra is, the area around Village Hall [the 11000 block of Depot Avenue]."

The six-month study will conclude with a priorities report, which will help Worth officials determine on what projects to focus. The planning agency might suggest ways the village could create mixed-use housing near the Metra station, with stores on the first floor and living space on upper floors, or putting affordable senior housing in town, McElroy said. Possibilities include making public transit more readily available or creating a transit-oriented development.

The agency will look at Worth's previous long-range plan developed in 2005; interview the mayor, trustees and village staff; create a report; and help Worth decide on a follow-up project.

"We want to draw people in, and have them want to live here because they can use our public transportation," McElroy said.

The village has qualified for participation in CMAP's local technical assistance program, which will have agency staff analyze the needs of the community, said CMAP principal planner Erin Aleman. The program is provided at no cost to the village. The study will include a budget analysis, reviews of project ideas and the possibility of bringing on a town planner to hunt for businesses that want to come to Worth, McElroy said.

"Typically, we will create a comprehensive plan for the village," Aleman said. "We don't do any direct development. We look at land use and transit access and housing recommendations. Potentially, this could be a transit oriented development plan."

The local technical assistance program is funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development through the sustainable communities initiative. The program began in 2010, and CMAP received $4.2 million to provide direct assistance to communities.

"After six months, we will come up with recommendations for the village," Aleman said. "That could focus on the business corridor or a transit oriented development, or maybe something else will come out after six months. We don't really know what the worth plan is going to look like."

CMAP is working on similar studies in Palos Park and Palos Heights, and plans to hold public meetings after the study is completed to get residents' input on what they would like to see in Worth. The study will help guide the village into the next step of development, Aleman said.

"The plans we develop are guides or blueprints for redevelopments," she said. "We set the stage for planning."