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In May 2017, Lansing voters elected Patti Eidam mayor. Eidam and the new administration have focused on acquiring grants from county, state, and federal governments to improve the village in several ways. Two years into the transformation, the efforts are paying off.

Infrastructure progress

The village acquired and used a $640,000 grant from the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association to resurface Wentworth Avenue from Ridge Road to Bernice Road, according to Village Administrator Dan Podgorski. “Now we’re taking the next step,” he said. “Residents will see a lot of upgrade work from Ridge Road to I-80.”

Lansing will convert that part of Ridge Road to three lanes instead of four, with one center lane used for both turns either way. “It’s the way Ridge Road is set up to the south, so drivers should adapt rather quickly,” Podgorski said. Planning and design are underway, with a spring 2020 timeline for construction.

A $200,000 Community Development Block grant from Cook County is being used to resurface Indiana Avenue from School Street to Torrence Avenue. Lansing kicked in $140,000 for street and curb repair, said Podgorski. “The roads in that area get a lot of use because of our library,” he said. The project is scheduled to be completed late fall. “We want to make sure that road is complete before winter,” Podgorski said.

The last election rode on the poor condition of roads throughout the village, something not lost on the current administration. “The mayor has allocated $1 million annually for street repair and resurfacing beyond what we acquire through grants,” Podgorski said. “We will replenish that fund every budget until we catch up on all of the road work that needs to be done.”

Housing redevelopment

Lansing acquired two Illinois Housing state grants of $250,000 each. It has allowed the village to acquire abandoned properties. “In many cases, the properties we acquire need to be torn down,” Podgorski said. “Our plan is to work with a contractor who wants to purchase the lot after the teardown and build new single-family homes.”

Podgorski emphasized owner-occupied homes. “The mayor wants to increase the number of quality homes available for residents to purchase,” he said. “We have a very loyal residency who want to stay in their village, and we want to do whatever we can to make that an enticing option.”

Some homes the village acquires could be refurbished and resold. “We’re working with a couple of local banks that hold some of these properties,” Podgorski said. “We’ll analyze each one on its own merit and decide the best avenue, refurbish or replace.”

Economic development

The village administration has been using four tax increment financing programs and a façade upgrade program to attract new business as well as retaining existing ones. “Three of our TIFs are in commercial areas, one in a more industrial area,” Podgorski said. “We’ve made some good progress with businesses on both ends.”

Dixie Kitchen moved into the old Popolano’s building on Torrence Avenue. Rancho Grande is preparing to begin renovation of the Golden Crown building on Torrence. The microbrewery One Trick Pony is just awaiting financing to purchase the old DeYoung Furniture building downtown, but its plans for renovation are ready. “We were able to retain all three businesses through creative use of Class 8 tax incentives and our façade program,” Podgorski said.

Bragg’s Automotive and Besse Shirt Lettering also took advantage of the façade program to cover exterior and interior upgrades. “Both businesses will be much more attractive and help promote the look of Lansing,” Podgorski said.

Fox Pointe Venue opened last fall with Autumn Fest and is completing its first full year of events in 2019. The new state-of-the-art entertainment venue is in the heart of downtown Lansing and intended to be a destination. “We held our first series of Wednesday night concerts this year,” Podgorski said. “We had great success, averaging close to 2,000 visitors to each event. And our Woodstock anniversary party was a big hit.”

The village is expanding parking for Fox Pointe, having purchased three nearby lots close that will add more than 100 spots. “We’re investigating other areas with the hope of adding pocket parking lots within a comfortable walking distance,” Podgorski said.

Wrought iron gating will be added to provide security and aesthetics to the venue, which also will be improved with fencing on the north end. “We want Fox Pointe to be the centerpiece of our community for years to come,” Podgorski said.

This article originally ran on nwitimes.com.

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