DOWNERS GROVE – If 2013 was defined by flooding and the new fee to pay for stormwater infrastructure improvements, Mayor Martin Tully said the next capital challenge facing Downers Grove will likely be the future of two buildings – village hall and the police station.
“It’s no secret, it’s been a high priority for some time that both of these buildings are past their usable condition as they currently exist,” Tully said during an interview with Downers Grove Suburban Life that focused on village priorities and challenges for 2014.
“We had some plans a number of years ago to address both of those, and even had recommendations and plans and drawings that were put together by consultants in order to move forward. And then the great recession hit, so those plans were shelved because at that point nobody knew what would happen.”
Tully said village hall, which was a ball bearings factory before being converted to its current use in the 1960s, and the police station are both outdated and expensive to maintain.
“It doesn’t have any of the modern accouterments,” he said. “If you’ve been to other village halls, even our chambers aren’t exactly up to snuff with the 21st century, in what people who come to visit government expect to see in terms of their ability to interact with a public body.
“Certainly in terms of things like the roof, other systems, HVAC, it’s just old. And the question is, do you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate the place, or do you do something else?”
He said the village council hopes to identify a plan, whether it means building a new facility or even a mixed-use building that could house village offices along with other governmental or private space.
“We want to come up with a plan in 2014, not that it’ll be implemented in 2014,” he said.
A new village hall could also be the focus of economic development efforts, he said.
“It’s a pretty sweet location right here,” he said. “But that will come out in the wash in terms of what the plan is for village hall and the police station.”
Other areas of interest include University Plaza on Butterfield Road near Downers Drive and the Meadowbrook Shopping Center at 63rd Street and Woodward Avenue.
Meadowbrook Shopping Center “has long been on the ‘can we do something better there?’ list,” he said. “And again in conjunction with the Economic Development Corp., we’ve been working with the property owners to see what else might be done there.”
Tully said there might be opportunities for “out-lot” developments, which means new restaurants or other standalone business built in the parking lot, or even something more ambitious.
“And since we don’t own it, everyone has to be on board with something like that,” he said.
Tully also identified external challenges like those posed by the State of Illinois.
“We need to continue to be vigilant of identifying threats to our balance sheet, and those can come in the form of reductions in existing revenue that flows through the state, or through the imposition of new obligations that don’t come with any funding sources – unfunded mandates,” he said. “The one that’s been threatened for some time and wont go away is the challenge to the local government distributive fund, which is our portion … of the state income tax.
“There’s been talk back and forth for at least the last two years in Springfield about some kind of a change to that, that could potentially have a major impact upon municipal balance sheets. And, of course, if something like that happens, the result is that the community either needs to eliminate the things that were previously funded with those dollars or need to figure out an alternative source of funding,” he said.
“We try to plan for it with various contingencies and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of doing that. My concern is that’s just the one we know of.”
Other issues that could come to light in 2014 is the first year of mandatory compliance with the village’s sign ordinance that governs the size and height of commercial signage.
He said the council would also like to resolve the fowl ordinance.
And, it also could address food trucks, though it’s not high on the council’s priority list, he said. Tully said the village could model its food truck policy on the numerous other cities that have recently allowed the expansion of the trend.
“I think that’s something that could be dealt with,” he said. “I wouldn’t bump something else to deal with it. I haven’t perceived any great desire from the rest of the council to bump something else to address that.”