Wood Dale residents will start seeing major changes to the look of their city in the coming year, Mayor Nunzio Pulice said Thursday during his annual State of the City address.
In a talk with roughly 40 city officials and Wood Dale Chamber of Commerce members, Pulice outlined changes coming to local businesses and roads that will dramatically alter the look of the community.
City leaders entered into a $26,000 contract with Uhlir Consulting, LLC, to create plans to revitalize the look of downtown Wood Dale along Irving Park Road. Pulice said final plans are slated to be approved by February.
In conjunction with that project, Wood Dale launched a public-private facade improvement program for out-of-date buildings downtown. Pulice said city leaders and the Uhlir group approved conceptual plans that will have at least three storefronts altered to complement the "prairie-style" look of the new Metra station nearby.
The goal is to make the Irving Park corridor attractive for business development.
"We definitely want to improve the area, bring businesses to the area and, naturally, more people to the area," Pulice said.
Residents will see another blighted area revitalized next year at 276 Irving Park Road, the former site of Georgio's Banquets. The six-story building will treat people with memory issues like Alzheimer's disease on two floors, will offer assisted living on three floors, and will have a possible cafe open to the public on the first floor.
The mayor also outlined early milestones residents might see next year in the long-term Elgin-O'Hare Western Access Project, such as western access to O'Hare via York Road and several new interchanges. And this fall, a local advisory committee will begin meeting to discuss issues such as noise abatement and property access.
"The city has been working very actively with the tollway and it looks like we are going to get all the access we have desired," Pulice said. "The city has been at the table since the beginning."
Ultimately, the roadwork to extend the expressway and build western access to O'Hare is slated to go through 2025, so full business benefits may not be realized for up to 15 years, Pulice said.
Roadwork to ease congestion at Irving Park and Wood Dale roads is slated to be finished by 2014. Pulice said improvements include an extension of the Front Street bypass; new traffic light configurations; a new right-turn lane on Irving Park and other engineering changes.
To aid residents individually, Wood Dale is in the process of conducting a flood study to create solutions that will ease its effects. Recommendations will be made in December and improvements will be considered for the 2014 budget, Pulice said.
City finances are also stable, Pulice said, in part because the city has filled a large gap in industrial vacancies and sales tax is Wood Dale's biggest single revenue stream.
"If somebody wanted to move out, we found them a bigger space or what they needed," Pulice said.
The city saw a decrease in sales tax from 2010 to early 2011, but has seen a steady increase in the past year, Pulice said. That corresponds with the city's effort to bring industrial vacancy rates down from 25 percent to only 8 percent in the past four years.
But the uptick was not enough to stop the city from needing to borrow roughly $10 million to cover upgrades for its water treatment plant. Pulice said the entire project may cost up to $25 million, but the city was diligent in securing a loan that was less than 2 percent for the portion it could not pay out-of-pocket.