How Des Plaines mayoral candidates want to improve the downtown
Des Plaines' three mayoral candidates have different ideas for revitalizing the city's downtown area.
Michael Charewicz, Malcolm Chester and Andrew Goczkowski discussed their visions for Des Plaines' downtown and other issues during a joint -- and virtual -- endorsement interview with the Daily Herald.
Incumbent Mayor Matthew Bogusz cannot run for reelection because of city term limits.
Charewicz, a former 8th Ward alderman, said the renovated Des Plaines Theatre will be the cornerstone of any future downtown redevelopment.
Des Plaines bought the shuttered local landmark at 1476 Miner St. in 2018, and officials have spent millions renovating it. It's expected to reopen this year, operated by entertainment and dining entrepreneur Ron Onesti.
Charewicz praised the construction of a parking garage northeast of city hall as well as a grant program designed to encourage redevelopment.
"We're doing everything right," said Charewicz, who served on the council from 2011 to 2019.
Charewicz said what's now needed is "shameless self-promotion." The city should advertise downtown businesses and restaurants on local cable TV and take steps to attract customers who live in other towns, he said.
Chester, the city's 6th Ward alderman, is particularly troubled by the vacancies in the Metropolitan Square shopping, dining and residential complex that's north of Miner Street near Lee Street. Built more than 15 years ago, the privately owned center has several commercial vacancies, and Chester believes the spaces are empty because the owners are demanding exorbitant rents.
"Metropolitan Square has been a terrible problem for us," said Chester, who also ran for mayor in 2017. "We need to change the dynamic there."
Chester said he'd like to see bars or other entertainment venues open in the center.
Officials need to use their imaginations and come up with changes that "make it exciting to be in Des Plaines," he said.
Goczkowski, the current 8th Ward alderman, also cited Metropolitan Square as a concern. He, too, is counting on the Des Plaines Theatre to spark redevelopment in the downtown area.
Goczkowski would like to see more restaurants open in the area to serve theater customers.
"If we get 600 or 700 people coming downtown multiple nights a week to these shows, we're going to have a built-in base of people who are going to look for places to eat before the show, places to spend time before and after the show," said Goczkowski, a council member since 2019. "It's a real opportunity."
Goczkowski suggested "supercharging" municipal grant programs to stoke business growth in the area.