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Engineers give Flossmoor village board recap, update on downtown revitalization plans

Plans for roadway, pedestrian and streetscape improvements a few years in the works for Flossmoor’s Central Business District remain on track despite the COVID-19 pandemic and some newer faces on the village board.

Dan Schug, of Baxter & Woodman Consulting Engineers, provided the village board with a recap of the project to date during a meeting held Monday, Nov. 1. The project was last discussed publicly in October 2020, since which time the board has welcomed a new mayor and trustees.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our lifestyle and has had direct impacts on the use of the downtown area, including outdoor dining, concerts and additional outdoor events,” Public Works Director John Brunke said. “Taking this into consideration, staff feels that it would be best for the street design alternatives discussion to be brought back to the village board for affirmation of the preferred alternative.”

The project, which is near the final steps of Phase 1 engineering, aims to create a geometric alternative for the intersection of Sterling Avenue and Park Drive in downtown Flossmoor, with several goals in mind.

“We are here to improve pedestrian safety and traffic safety,” Schug said. “Second is improving traffic flow or at least making sure the improvements that we do make don’t hinder traffic flow. Third is to revitalize the downtown streetscape aspects. It’s getting a little dated. We want to do a little bit of a refresh to make sure downtown looks and feels as nice as it actually is.”

Previous rounds of discussion eliminated several alternatives to settle on permanent safety measures while maintaining a teardrop island in the intersection. The board’s preferred alternative would lose four parking spots downtown, move the mailbox from the island to Central Drive, include raised splitter islands, surround the center landscape with a decorative truck apron, upgrade sidewalks in front of buildings with a decorative surface, and include an option for decorative pavement or permeable pavers in the parking areas.

Schug noted the preferred alternative loses a few parking spaces not because of geometrics so much as the fact that parking is substandard as it exists today in downtown Flossmoor.

“It’s a matter of standards have been updated over the last 20-30 years,” Schug said.

The next step in the project is getting feedback from stakeholders, Schug said. Then, Baxter & Woodman is to develop and select streetscape alternatives before submitting engineering to the Illinois Department of Transportation for Phase 1 approval.

In January of 2022, the village also plans to submit a grant application to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for the Rebuild Illinois Main Street and Downtown Capital Program for Phase 3 Construction and Construction Engineering for the project. That grant would require 20% matching funds from the village.

“It’s a good fit for Flossmoor,” Schug said. “We’re pretty optimistic about this funding source.”

Flossmoor is planning to apply for a similarly 80/20 matching grant in fall 2022 through IDOT’s Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program. Schug noted Motor Fuel Tax, Rebuild Illinois and Invest in Cook are also funding options for the village. Surface Transportation Program money was deemed “not successful,” Schug said, because getting that money would require other Sterling Avenue improvements that staff felt were not attainable, with costs that “far outweigh” the grant money available.

Phase 2 engineering for the downtown improvements is planned for summer 2022, with construction occurring in 2023, according to Brunke.

Trustee Gary Daggett, who was not on the board yet at the time of the last discussion, asked whether or not the plan addresses the safety concerns that prompted the changes.

“It does address the safety concerns,” Schug said. “Some of the alternatives are more safe than others, but this does address the safety concerns specific to these conditions.”

Schug said there are “more safe options,” but they were weighed against other concerns of the board, including “how we want the downtown to be and function.” Still, he expressed confidence in the plan he presented to the board.

“I would not have brought any of these alternatives to you if they didn’t address the safety we were worried about,” Schug said.

Trustee James Mitros said keeping the charm of downtown Flossmoor is important.

“I still favor this option,” he said. “It’s the right option.”

Trustee Brian Driscoll added, “I think it accomplishes all the things we collectively had in mind.”

Other business

  • Erik O’Brien, a professional concierge who lives near Flossmoor’s sculpture park, was appointed to the Public Art Commission by Mayor Michelle Nelson. The village board voted 6-0 to confirm the appointment. Nelson noted O’Brien has “a very good depth of knowledge,” volunteers in the village and is excited to get more involved.
  • The Rev. Derrick Roberts, pastor of Restoration of Faith Church, 2801 School St., thanked the village board and administrators for their help with a flooding issue at his church. Roberts said there were roots in the drainage line, which also drops down, so rodding had not cleared it all, leading to backup problems.

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