The Village of Lansing is rich in history. Founded in 1843, the area was settled by the Lansing family in 1845, and formally incorporated in 1893. Originally made up mostly of Dutch and German settlers, Lansing has become a diverse community of more than 28,000 with a median family income of $56,900.
In May 2017, voters elected Patty Eidam as mayor. Her new administration has focused its initial efforts on acquiring grants from county, state, and federal governments to assist in improving the village in several ways.
A $640,000 grant from the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association will allow the village to resurface Wentworth Avenue from Ridge Road to Bernice Road, says Village Administrator Dan Podgorski. “Residents will see that resurfacing project completed next spring.”
An Illinois Housing Grant for $250,000 will provide funds for Lansing to acquire abandoned properties. “We want to acquire empty houses and refurbish them,” Podgorski says. “The mayor wants to sell those homes and improve neighborhoods by having these properties owner-occupied. That not only helps the residents who purchase the home, it also helps their neighbors by increasing the number of owner-occupied houses. Property values usually increase with ownership.”
A $200,000 Community Development Block Grant from Cook County will allow for resurfacing of Indiana Avenue from School Street to Glen Terrace. “All of our streets were examined and rated,” Podgorski says. “We’ll use available funds to resurface roads as possible.”
An additional $670,000 from village funds will be available for road work next spring, according to Podgorski. “Mayor Eidam has been very aggressive in finding additional funds for roadwork in the village,” he says. “It’s a high priority to repair as many miles as possible in both 2018 and 2019.”
Residents also have voiced concern over dead and mangled trees in parkways, Podgorski says. As a result, the village is inspecting parkway trees, noting the ones that need trimming and/or removal. “We have $150,000 allocated for tree work, and the subsequent concrete work that usually accompanies tree removal,” he says.
Podgorski says the village is focusing on retaining businesses while working to attract new ones. “It’s important to retain businesses that our residents are familiar with,” he says.
Dixie Kitchen, known for southern style cooking that includes ribs, gumbo, and peach cobbler, moved into the old Popolano’s building, which most recently housed Bohemian Joe's, on Torrence Avenue. “We’re really pleased that we were able to keep Dixie Kitchen in town,” Podgorski says. “We helped them with an address change on their liquor license, so they could continue to serve their customers at the new location.”
A Class 8 Tax Incentive is helping Rancho Grande stay in Lansing, moving from Ridge Road to the building previously occupied by Golden Crown on Torrence Avenue. “We’re also going to assist them with our façade program to help decorate the front of the building,” Podgorski says.
Fox Pointe Venue is the latest addition to Lansing. The new outdoor performance venue, at 18138 Henry St., is designed to be a destination attraction.
“The Autumn Fest will be the first festival to take advantage of our new facility,” Podgorski says of the annual event in early October. “It’s a great three-day event filled with family activities.”
The venue include concerts at the amphitheater, which can hold around 3,000 spectators. Podgorski says that the village will mix free concerts and movies with more upscale professional entertainment.
Microbrewery One Trick Pony will move downtown thanks to the hard work of town officials. Using a Class 8 Tax incentive, the brew pub will move into the old DeYoung Furniture building on Ridge Road. “It’s another one of our plans to attract visitors to the downtown area,” Podgorski says. “We hope to attract one or two restaurants downtown and are open to other destination-type venues.”
“One of the first grants we procured was the COPS Hiring Program grant,” says Podgorski. “Mayor Eidam ran on a campaign promise to increase the number of police in our village. Thanks to the procurement of the federal grant, we have been able to hire additional police officers to help improve the safety of our village.”
The police department now employs 56 full-time officers, four part-time officers, three part-time community service officers, and six cadets. Six officers are recent hires, three with money from the federal grant.
The COPS grant covers the costs for the officers three years, after which time the village will pick it up. “The program has worked very well for many local villages and towns,” Podgorski says. “We’re confident that these hires will be permanent additions to our staff.”
The extra police officers have allowed an increase in premises checks. In 2017, Lansing officers conducted 4,816 checks at businesses and schools as part of effort to deter crime, up from 3,700 in 2016.
And it appears to be working. In 2017, Lansing reported a significant reduction in robberies, burglaries, and aggravated assault and battery crimes. “We hope to report further reductions in 2018,” Podgorski says.