City Council backs new plan for Calumet City's future

2014-06-26T00:00:00Z 2014-06-26T23:03:05Z City Council backs new plan for Calumet City's futureGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
June 26, 2014 12:00 am  • 

CALUMET CITY | Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush said Thursday she, the city's aldermen, Economic Development Coordinator Bryan Swanson and Housing Director James Gigliotti will be spending coming months figuring out which parts of the city's new Comprehensive Plan will be the first implemented by municipal officials.

The aldermen on Thursday voted 6-0, with Seventh Ward Alderman Antoine Collins absent, in favor of a Comprehensive Plan that details the potential future for Calumet City in the next three decades.

The plan calls for improvements to be made to the area around River Oaks Shopping Center and to bolster potential retail corridors along Burnham and Torrence avenues and Sibley Boulevard.

Following approval of the plan, which was crafted by a task force of local business, education and transportation leaders with a grant from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Qualkinbush said officials will have to determine which of the suggestions in the plan will be implemented first.

She said she thinks the timing is perfect in that the City Council currently is undergoing the process of putting together its appropriations ordinance, which means officials will be inclined to think finances and set priorities as to where money should be spent.

Approval of the ordinance came one day following a public hearing held at City Hall, in which 11 local residents expressed their own views about what should be done with the city's future.

Consultant Mike Teska said many of those residents expressed concerns about street lighting and public safety, which he said were consistent with the suggestions made for improvements in transportation in the Comprehensive Plan.

"These things were already in the plan, and the residents we heard from seem to be sympathetic," Teska said.

Qualkinbush said some of the suggestions made by residents for local improvements are complicated by restrictions the city faces for development.

She cited specifically the River Oaks mall, which is owned by Simon Malls, and the River Oaks West mall owned by Kimco. "We're talking about two ownerships with different restrictions we have to comply with to satisfy the needs of their tenants," Qualkinbush said. "It's not as easy as just saying we want something, and here it is."

The mayor also mentioned the vacancy in River Oaks that once was a Sears store. City officials are working with a Clearwater, Fla.-based consultant to consider turning the facility into a sports-related building of sorts.

"It's likely we're not going to get a single, large tenant to fill that space," she said. "We're probably going to have to think about splitting it up into many small spaces."

In other business, the City Council approved amendments to city ordinances concerning parking on city streets during winter months.

Thirty-two city streets will be designated snow routes, and parking on them will be forbidden any time snow gets to be more than 2 inches in depth, until such time that snow is cleared away. Parking is defined as a car not moving from a spot for more than three minutes.

Qualkinbush said signs specifying the 32 streets will be erected later this year.

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