CALUMET CITY | This south suburb, along with surrounding communities, has potential for significant population growth in coming decades, leading officials to consider how they can best accommodate the growth and develop into a more viable community.
City Council members reviewed a Teska & Associates study at a special meeting Monday. The study featured comments from residents regarding strengths and weaknesses for future development.
The city's primary asset is its location right off the Bishop Ford Freeway directly south of Chicago, while its crime rate is the biggest reason for concern among residents.
Yet the study, which was paid for with a $50,000 grant from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, says it expects Calumet City to share in growth that will hit all the inner suburbs of Cook County between now and the year 2040.
Mike Teska considered the agency's projection that Calumet City's population will be about 43,600 people in 2040 "a little optimistic." The population in the 2010 census was about 37,200 people, down from 39,000 in 2000.
"They believe the outer suburbs (such as in Will County) will not be able to sustain the growth that they have experienced recently," Teska said. "They believe it is the urban communities that offer the best opportunity for growth."
Teska said one advantage for Calumet City is the fact that 23 percent of its 3,695 acres of land are either parks or forest preserves. "That's quite an asset," he said.
Another plus for Calumet City is the River Oaks Shopping Center.
"A lot of communities would like to have that in their community," said Teska.
The study suggests the area around the mall could be improved by bolstering access off Torrence Avenue, and also paying attention to outlots on the edge of the mall property that are largely undeveloped.
Some of them could be built into viable businesses such as the strip mall containing a Starbuck's coffee shop near the mall, while others might be developed into housing stock.
The study also suggests expanding a tax increment finance district for the Wentworth Woods area near State Line Road to help bolster businesses in the area and also to replace businesses such as the one-time Sterk's Super Foods whose structure now sits vacant.
Teska said development in that area is hampered more by the owner of the property who has shown a lack of cooperation with city officials wishing to build up the area.
Teska said the number of roads designated as truck routes could be expanded to better tie into Northwest Indiana routes that carry such a designation. He also said city officials should look into expanding bicycle/hiking paths so that people could use those routes to get to places such as River Oaks mall or the Sandburg Nature Center.
A public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 204 Pulaski Road, while aldermen may approve the plan when they meet Thursday.
Alderman Thaddeus Jones, D-3rd, was concerned about many of the suggestions, pointing out that the study offered few, if any, estimates about how much they would cost.
But Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush said she thinks the time for getting cost estimates is when city officials decide which of the goals they want to try to achieve.
Teska also said he expects Robinson Engineering Co., the South Holland-based firm that provides engineering services to municipal government, will be able to find state and federal grants to help pay for such projects.
"Robinson is very attached to the grant opportunities that exist out there," he said. "I think we're setting them up for a lot of future success."