Wood Dale officials are expected to approve a $26,000 contract with a prestigious consulting group to design a downtown vision for the city.
Uhlir Consulting LLC is led by Edward Uhlir, who served as the project design director and prepared the master plan for Chicago's $470 million Millennium Park.
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The group's work would focus on the community park area near Wood Dale and Irving Park roads, aiming to spruce up the business facades along intersecting Front Street to create an area that will attract people and businesses.
The city council is slated to vote May 17 on the proposed contract.
On that same day, Wood Dale officials will begin collaborating with the Regional Transit Authority and the Urban Land Institute at a developers summit at city hall.
"The idea is there is city-owned land in the downtown and a team of developers will look at the area, hear city plans and visions, and then give expert opinions on the most plausible development plans," said Ross Klicker, planning and economic development coordinator.
The effort is just part of a larger trend toward economic development in Wood Dale, officials said. Within the past year, the city has filled more than 1 million square feet of industrial business space, which added hundreds of jobs. New companies in the city include U.S. Cellular, Alfa Laval, Opto International and Toyo Ink America.
Several others have expanded, including engine manufacturer Power Solutions International, which added two buildings at a total of 300,000 square feet, and tool and dye manufacturer Weigel Tool Works, which grew by 25,000 square feet.
"The challenge right now, quite honestly, is that we have a lot of interest in the area but little open space because we are a built-out community," Klicker said. "So it's good news and bad news."
Wood Dale isn't the only community gaining interest from industrial companies wanting to resettle or expand. Nearby towns like Itasca and Bensenville have also seen industrial growth in the past year, thanks in part to efforts that are similar to Wood Dale's initiatives to attract business.
Bensenville is near completion of a revamp of its industrial park on the north side to fix problems with flooding and aging streets. Village President Frank Soto said the result has been increased applications for business licenses and an uptick in new leases in the last quarter of 2011.
Some major businesses settling or expanding in Bensenville include an expansion of Roesch Ford. Village leaders also wooed Skychef, one of the leading airline caterers, into Bensenville when the group was looking to re-enter the Chicago-area market after a six-year absence, Soto said.
In Itasca, new and expanding businesses leased more than 800,000 square feet of industrial buildings in the past 12 months, bringing roughly 325 jobs, officials said. The most recent large business to move into Itasca is Installation Specialists Inc., which does office furniture installation. The company is relocating its headquarters and centralizing operations to a 149,000-square-foot facility and bringing 130 jobs to Itasca.
Klicker said companies are attracted to his city and its neighbors due to their proximity to O'Hare. But he added that many companies are coming to the area because they are looking to the future.
"They want to be in Wood Dale for when the Elgin-O'Hare extension is in place, and get in before the demand is so high and drives rents and property values much higher," Klicker said.