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It's Time to Make Your Voice Heard on What to Do with the Plaza

Patch's Community Forum on the Plaza re-development is this Thursday. Where will you be?

There used to be – and maybe there still is – an old signboard ad for on a building near the 99th Street Metra station in Beverly. It reads "the plaza IS the place. 95th & WESTERN." The sign is old and the boards are buckling in places. It obviously harks back to an earlier time when the Plaza was The Place.

When I saw it, it reminded me of those faded mural ads for long-gone stores that you see on buildings in Chicago. Like the Boston Store "ghost sign" on the north façade of the 1 North Dearborn building (which, in fact, used to be the Boston Store). They are reminders of times gone by, happier times for some. While they last, the faded signs are also reminders that times change, and often there is no going back to the way things were.

In some cases, we might not want to go back. I think the Plaza is one of those examples. Indoor shopping malls evolved from the idea that there was a better way to build town centers. We could enclose them, privatize them, eliminate the messiness of truly public spaces and safely segregate commerce away from other uses like residential. We could also make malls easily accessible by automobile, our favorite new toy of the 20th Century.

I believe that development wave is now breaking, and will soon crash and begin to recede. I believe we must plan for a future beyond malls. Conveniently, I don't think we have to use too much imagination to devise a replacement for the suburban mall. In fact, all we really need to do for inspiration is look back to the way we planned town centers before indoor malls.

This Thursday at 7 p.m. at Evergreen Park Patch will host. As the unofficial master of ceremonies – a duty conferred solely by my status as a "ground floor" Patch contributor – I'm going to spend five minutes laying out why I think a town center-style development is a good idea at the Plaza site. I will also share a couple of examples of malls that have been successfully redeveloped into town centers – notably Belmar in Lakewood, Colo., and Mizner Park in Boca Raton, Fla.

The rest of the time belongs to you. Patch wants your ideas for what you think should happen at the Plaza site. It could be as simple as wanting a Kohl's, or as complex as arguing for a design style. We all know what we like and what we don't like. We all know what stores would make our lives easier if they were closer and what stores we don't want. Now is the time to say it out loud.

We're going to write down what you say, put it all together and give it to the Evergreen Park village board, the body that has the ultimate final say in what will happen to the Plaza site. That way it becomes part of the public record. And when it comes time to consider a formal plan for the Plaza, we're going to remind everyone, including the village board members, what was said at this meeting. If the community's input is ignored without explanation or justification, we will point that out. Then it will be up to all of us to hold those responsible – or irresponsible, as the case may be – to account at the ballot box.

The redevelopment of The Plaza site, should it occur, will likely be the single most significant rearrangement of the Evergreen Park landscape in our lifetimes, and I mean that from visual, sensory and fiscal points of view. The loss of the Martinique to and the but as the old sign in Beverly notes, the Plaza IS the place in Evergreen Park.

Let's figure out together how to make it The Place again, and make Evergreen Park the capital of the Southwest Side.

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Jeannine Cheatham June 27, 2012 at 12:27 PM
The plaza was a first. In this spirit ,the new space should represent the future of our community. Green space, environmentally conscious, supportive of healthy lifestyle. i.e. places for walking, bike racks, water conserving plumbing/water foutains, etc. Many other malls are excessive and can be overwhelming.
janice koll June 27, 2012 at 01:34 PM
There are some aspects of downtown Silver Spring, Maryland (on a smaller scale) that I think would encourage more residents to visit and shop at a newly designed Plaza: http://www.silverspringdowntown.com/ The arts, entertainment, restaurants, and events appeal to me.
monica June 27, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Unfortunately I will not be able to attend tomorrow's meeting although this would be one meeting I would LOVE to attend if I had an option! I feel like I'm beating a dead horse since I have posted numerous times about this but when you brought up Belmar in CO. I knew I had to say one more thing...YES YES YES! That is EXACTLY what we need. They have concerts there in the summer, that's where their farmers market is, great shops that would appeal to our community, water fountains, a play area, somewhere to have coffee, somewhere to have ice cream, etc... A place where you'd take your kids (or even ride you bikes there) and hang out for the day. I looked at the MD development posted by Janice...same idea. So if you can take that to the board for me...please do!
SickOfSexton June 28, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Why waste your time? Mayor Sexton will likely do whatever the developers want to do: Use the cheapest construction materials possible, put in any store that comes in (think shoe stores, dollar stores, nail spas, Goldblatt's), go with the $hittiest and architectural design because it's the cheapest to implement. Farmer's Market? Fountains? Ha!
Sarah C June 28, 2012 at 03:52 PM
I agree with the comments referencing a family friendly space with areas for families and young couples to frequent. I also think we have more than enough Dots and discount stores. I'd like to see a place for shopping (boutiques and stores such as Banana or Black House White Market) and possibly a nice restaurant to eat at. We're so desperate for items like this in our neighborhood. The shopping complex in Burr Ridge is something that we should look at to mirror. http://www.shopburrridge.com/ They have wonderful stores, restaurants and spaces for community events. They've held 5ks, car shows and many other events for the neighborhood to participate in. PLEASE!!!!!
Patricia welsh June 29, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Just a couple of thoughts to keep in mind. I do love the ideas presented, but we have to remember that while the board does approve the plans, they don't own the property. The owner will determine what makes the best fiscal sense given size, space, accessibility, etc and build what will return a profit. Also, the neighborhoods that were cited as models for this style of development are in much more affluent sections of the country where the economy is growing and gaining jobs and wealth. Finally, what we really need is a long range development plan for the village. Not just what is residential vs retail space, but a vision. Then proposals would have a criteria to meet, and not just what the mayor wants to approved. Oh, and one last thing... We need to understand why those business in the plaza didn't succeed before. Could it have anything to do with our uncompetitive tax rates, which make neighboring towns more appealing to development?

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