A number of residents who attended an Open House Long Range Planning meeting for the Village of Worth last October returned Tuesday to hear the first report on the findings of the group at the village board meeting.
However, some residents were not pleased about some aspects of the report.
Farr and Associates, a consulting firm, was hired last year through a $75,000 Regional Transportation Association grant received by the Village for the purpose of establishing a Transit Oriented Development project near the 111th Street METRA Station.
During an hour-long presentation, Doug Farr, principal founder of the organization, outlined a report indicating that Worth has 5,129 residents living within a half mile of the station. Sixty-seven percent of commuters using the station drive to the station and are mostly from the northwest areas, including Palos Park. Only 17 percent of the commuters walk to the station.
In the October meeting, Farr had explained that TOD projects are designed to find ways to improve rider access to public transportation, while attracting residential and commercial development to the area. Increased walkability in the area is the goal, which could draw restaurants and shops appealing to commuters.
Farr’s presentation on Tuesday hit a snag when he mentioned a proposed design scheme for six-story multi-family units along Depot Street with up to 48 units per building. A number of people in the audience spoke up, saying that Worth did not need any more multi-family units and the problems that often come with them.
Her stated that prior to the meeting he had met with the village officials and learned that three-story, mixed-use buildings, with commercial/retail use on the first floor and apartments on the second and third floors, would be more acceptable in the village.
Farr said he was willing to revise the proposed designs but he also asked the audience to think in terms of a 30-year plan.
“None of this is going to happen overnight. We have to start really small. This is the most dramatic change that could be made in Worth,” he said.
“A row of three-story buildings with small shops on the first floor would encourage people to walk to the station. It could be done by small businesses, such as a small coffee shop, or a bakery, making it a cute place, with a nice ambiance. Worth doesn’t have anything like this now.”
Farr added that there has not been any new construction in Worth in more than 30 years, with the exception of the Chieftain’s Irish Pub on 111th Street.
“Developers need to know that there is a market here for new construction, and it is the responsibility of the village leaders to set the table for developers. Developers need to know that the market will support an up-scale apartment building. An occupied first building will attract a second building,” he said.
When questions arose about developments in northern suburbs and why they couldn’t be repeated in Worth, Farr suggested that he could provide a bus tour for village officials and the Long-Range Planning Steering Committee to view TOD’s in other communities.
After the meeting, Mayor Mary Werner said that the bus tour was a great idea and that she would be working with Farr to put it together. “This project is definitely a work in progress,” she said.
John Staunton, owner of Chieftain’s Irish Pub and chairman of the village’s Economic Development Commission, said that he thought the presentation had been well-received overall. He added, however, that he realizes there is some fear among the residents of any large changes.
“This is a very small manageable project and it has to happen in Worth, if we are going to move forward,” he said.
In other business, the board approved an amendment to the village’s Intergovernmental Agreement with the Worth Park District for the exchange of services between the two entities, calling for an annual meeting at the beginning of each year to determine the scope of services requested by each party regarding grass cuttings and asphalt services.
Also approved was expenditure, not to exceed $3,000, for a beautification plan for the northeast corner of 111th Street and Harlem Avenue.
The mayor also announced that the Water’s Edge Golf Club was hosting a new event, the Penguin Open, beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 27 with a shotgun start. The cost is $50 per person, which includes a continental breakfast, green fee, cart fee and a buffet lunch following play. For registration, call (708) 671-1032.
Trustee Tedd Muersch Jr. was absent from the meeting.