What the new strategic plan in Des Plaines aims to accomplish
Infrastructure improvements and economic investment are among the chief goals of Des Plaines' new, five-year strategic plan.
Ensuring Des Plaines is a "friendly, diverse, vibrant and thriving" community is another priority, as is delivering "the highest standards of public service."
Approved by the city council Monday, the document should guide the council and city staff members on projects "at every level" through 2026, Mayor Andrew Goczkowski said.
The plan -- viewable online at desplaines.org/strategicplan -- includes several suggestions for improving the city's infrastructure, especially regarding transportation.
One key project will be a bridge that will carry drivers using Algonquin Road over the Union Pacific tracks between Mount Prospect and Wolf roads. The road now meets the tracks at ground level, resulting in traffic tie-ups when trains block the crossing.
The bridge will be a "game-changing transportation project" that will move more traffic, reduce congestion and improve response times for emergency vehicles, Goczkowski said. Early engineering work already is underway, he said.
Other infrastructure projects could include street and sidewalk repairs, sidewalk construction and sewer replacements.
The economic revitalization of the downtown area as another goal of the strategic plan.
"We're trying to create a downtown that's attractive to people," 6th Ward Alderman Malcolm Chester said Wednesday. "That's a huge challenge."
Officials hope changes to the Metropolitan Square retail-and-residential complex could give the downtown a big boost.
Consultants are developing a plan that could change traffic patterns within Metropolitan Square to make the area more pedestrian-friendly. Spaces for cultural events and other activities could be created, too.
As for economic improvements elsewhere in town, the strategic plan envisions changes along Oakton Street, including the possible construction of a train station.
A station initially was considered a possible catalyst for redevelopment along Oakton, but the drop in Metra ridership prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic has city officials concerned about its viability.
"We're waiting for the traffic to come back," Chester said.
The strategic plan encourages entertainment and hotel expansion near Rivers Casino and real estate developments elsewhere, too.
To ensure Des Plaines is a vibrant city with community character, the plan calls for new public events, creating more green spaces on underused properties and implementing a marketing program, among other efforts.
Finally, the plan says city officials should strive for excellence in public service by improving customer service and innovation and by emphasizing training and professional development, among other tactics.
The plan is not a playbook for overnight success, Goczkowski cautioned.
"Real progress takes time," he said. "Major changes happen as the result of steady, gradual, incremental improvements."