Bellwood Gearing Up For Nearly $800K In St. Charles Rd. Improvements

Friday, June 8, 2018 || By Igor Studenkov || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: The corner of St. Charles Rd. and 25th Ave. in Bellwood. | Igor Studenkov

The village of Bellwood recently secured nearly $800,000 in grant money to improve a stretch of roadway that officials consider critical to the town’s overall economic health.

Last month, the village issued a request for qualifications for design engineering and construction engineering services related to planned streetscape improvements along the section of St. Charles Road between Mannheim Road and 25th Ave.

Peter Tsiolis, Bellwood’s economic development director, said that the improvements will include making sidewalks in the area wheelchair accessible, and installing new LED streetlights for pedestrians, new crosswalks at all intersections, two new Pace bus shelters, four new benches and bike racks. 

The new pedestrian streetlights, he explained, will be installed along the entire corridor, plus a block west of the Mannheim end, between Mannheim Road and Englewood Avenue. 

In the more commercial part of the corridor, the lights will be more “decorative” in design to convey an old-school downtown feel, while the others would have a more functional design. 

While the corridor has a number of Pace bus stops, none of them amount to what might be called bus shelters. The village will install two concrete pads, with Pace putting in the shelters themselves. Tsiolis said that village officials haven’t yet figured out the exact locations of the shelters, benches and bike racks.

The improvements will be funded by a $600,000 Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) grant, along with $150,000 from the Regional Transportation Authority. According to RTA data, the village of Bellwood will not have to contribute any money to the project. 

Because it will take a few months before the Illinois Department of Transportation signs off on the improvements, work isn’t expected to start until the spring of 2019. Tsiolis said he doesn’t expect the work to be finished until around the end of next year. 

Tsiolis said that the improvements are part of Bellwood’s ongoing efforts to turn that stretch of St. Charles Road into a “downtown” area, similar to Oak Park’s Lake Street corridor and Forest Park’s Madison Street corridor.

“I know Mayor [Andre] Harvey is eager to see redevelopment of  St. Charles as a downtown,” he said. “Every area has a thriving downtown with coffee shops and restaurants; places where people not only want to live, but commute from work. We’re trying to bring that to Bellwood.” 

The upcoming streetscape improvements are just the latest in a series of efforts by village officials to invigorate that area of Bellwood, including locating the Office of Emergency Management facility along St. Charles Road, rehabbing two apartment buildings and demolishing a few buildings that were “eyesores.”

And more improvements and projects are coming, Tsiolis said, adding that he was not yet prepared to give any details about them. VFP 

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Nnedi Okorafor June 2018 Event.1-1

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