Tag: Angela Smith

Maywood Residents React to Affordable Housing Proposal

Friday, September 1, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

The last time Perry Vietti, the president of Interfaith Housing Development Corporation, was in Maywood pitching a plan to build affordable housing units in the village, he confronted a wave of criticism from residents who thought that the proposal was bad for the village’s quality of life.

Continue reading “Maywood Residents React to Affordable Housing Proposal”

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Manufacturing, The Present And Future Of Good Employment, Still Mired By Outdated Perceptions, Say Educators

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Freedman seating employee Valerie Galvan, 38, holds up the work of her hands. | Chandler West/Wednesday Journal || Below: Angela Smith, Maywood’s business development coordinator, second from right, with Commissioner Richard Boykin and other business and government leaders during a Feb. 24 manufacturing breakfast in Chicago.

Boykin manufacturing breakfast.jpgThursday, March 10, 2016 || By Michael Romain 

Jose Aybar, the president of Richard J. Daley College in Chicago, often tells the story of visiting a manufacturing expo at McCormick Place one day and leaving with an ‘Aha!’ moment.

“I walked up to [huge] machine [that] was turning out about four to five tables,” he said during a manufacturing breakfast hosted by Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) last month at Freedman Seating in Chicago.

“I looked around for the person running the show for that machine and saw that person working a computer model,” said Aybar, who conceded that, at the time, his knowledge of manufacturing was “very, very shallow.”

It turned out, he said, that person was a petite woman who was earning $75,000 after having obtained an associate’s degree in manufacturing from a community college. And because she had also recently obtained her bachelor’s degree, her employer was going to give her a $10,000 raise. Aybar’s opinion of manufacturing changed in that moment.

“The manufacturing industry has an image problem,” Aybar said. “We see the worker in a manufacturing plant as being that burly fella with greasy hands. That’s changed.”

Aybar was among several community college administrators who shared the challenges of recruiting manufacturing students with a panel of employers and representatives of various government agencies who, in turn, shared the challenges of recruiting trained workers.

Boykin said bridging the divide is key to alleviating the high unemployment rates in certain areas of his district — a sentiment echoed by Maywood’s business development coordinator Angela Smith, who was also in attendance at the breakfast.

“It’s no wonder we have a problem with violence [and] illegal narcotics,” said Boykin. “These problems will not be solved without expanding employment and training opportunities for all of our residents.”

“Maywood is only as strong as our neighbors,” Smith said. “Jobs are key for our community and for maintaining the existing businesses we have here.”

Irene Sherr, a legislative affairs representative with the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development, said that the Chicago region is one of 24 federally designated manufacturing clusters that receive priority funding and resources designed to spur growth.

“There are about 3,700 firms in the Chicago region with 100,000 employees and $30 billion in sales associated with machinery and fabricated metal,” Sherr said, adding that about half of those firms are small businesses that employ less than 10 workers.

Many employees in those firms are getting ready to retire and are currently looking for fresh workers, said Dr. Henry Bohleke, the dean of business and technology at Triton College.

“When we meet with manufacturers, we hear the chorus of people struggling to fill positions,” Bohleke said. “There are people available, but they don’t have the skills.”

Bohleke said, through its industry partners, Triton offers up to 150 internships each year, but only a fraction of them get filled “because we can’t get enough people into the programs and through the programs.”

Bohleke said that Triton has introduced new engineering technology programs and experimented with a European training model — which emphasizes paying for students’ education in exchange for commitments to stay with companies for a minimum amount of time — to attract and retain “the best and the brightest” talent.

But he said there’s still some ground to cover before the conventional perception most people have about manufacturing jobs undergoes a change in the country’s popular consciousness.

“Sadly, many people in our education system — including teachers, counselors and even parents — still see a vision of manufacturing [ripped out of] Upton Sinclair’s novel ‘The Jungle.’ Sinclair had a very dim view of manufacturing and even compared it to slavery. Manufacturing has changed a great deal since then.” VFP

N O T I F I C A T I O N S 

March 20, 2016

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March 27, 2016

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Maywood Will Be a ‘Stronger Community’ with Land Bank as Partner Says Bank’s Executive Director

imageFriday, May 15, 2015 || By Michael Romain 

MAYWOOD || One year after his predecessor addressed the village’s Board of Trustees, Rob Rose (pictured left), the new executive director of the Cook County Land Bank Authority, was in town to formally introduce himself. Rose, who said he’s in his sixth week on the job, gave a short presentation and fielded questions from an audience of about 50 during a May 13 informational session hosted by Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) at council chambers, 125 S. 5th Avenue.

In many respects, the Land Bank’s purpose hasn’t changed since officials were last in town. Created by ordinance in 2013, the Land Bank is currently funded to the tune of $4.8 million and works to establish site control over vacant or abandoned homes, making them less costly, and less of a hassle, for prospective developers to acquire.

A private developer given a property by a village for ‘free’ would likely have to take care of back taxes, code violations and maintenance issues. And in the end, that ‘free’property may end up costing the developer $30,000 to $40,000, Rose noted.

“For that reason, a lot of developers who have the capacity to do work aren’t doing work, even though they have the capacity and the community has needs,” he said. “So, what we do is come in and intervene, write off those back taxes and work with the village around those code violations, so when we convey the property to a developer, at a minimum, what he knows is [he’s] got a tax-free, lien-free property that has been secured, cleaned out and maintained. What he has to worry about is just the cost of bringing it back on line. He doesn’t have those other unknowns that he’d have if he was just rying to do it by himself.”

This month, the Land Bank announced that it would target 13 Chicago neighborhoods and 13 west and south suburbs to aggressively buy and hold single- and multi-family properties in order to attract prospective developers. Maywood, Bellwood and Forest Park were among the suburbs in Proviso Township selected by the Land Bank for special attention.

The aggression is Rose’s influence and a not-so-subtle departure from the more passive approach taken by his predecessor, former executive director Brian White.

“My predecessor wanted to work from a standpoint of [not wanting] to do something until he had an end-user or end-use identified,” Rose said. “My tactic is a little bit opposite of that. In these areas we’ve identified, I want to buy as much property as we can, because we think there’s sufficient demand in those areas to take it down. But you need something like the Land Bank to come in to buy properties in bulk and to be able to work with municipalities to identify who we can work with.”

During his presentation to the board last October, White said that the bank would only target specific parcels that have strategic value and where there’s an actual plan for their redevelopment — unlike Rose’s approach of casting a much wider net and betting on entire communities, instead of singular parcels.

“We’re demand-drive,” White said at the time. “We aren’t looking to have all of your [distressed properties]. [We’re] looking to go out and acquire [properties] strategically and in ways that make sense.”

Rose noted that communities such as Maywood, Bellwood and Forest Park comprised “calculated risks” that he believes will ultimately pay off. But that doesn’t mean that Rose’s community-wide approach is wanting in discretion. As a May 9 Chicago Tribune article pointed out, Rose’s decision to target just 26 communities across Cook County means that dozens of others won’t receive the same level of attention.

Rose told the Tribune that there’s “too much to overcome” in certain areas, such as Chicago’s Englewood and South Lawndale neighborhoods, which were passed over by the Land Bank.

Angela Smith, the village’s economic development coordinator, said part of the reason Maywood was chosen over some of those other communities is because it has a very strong housing stock. Many of Maywood’s homes — from brick prairie-style bungalows to shingled Victorians — predate the post-WWII construction boom, which unleashed a wave of cheap, mass-produced suburban housing.

“A lot of homes here have very solid foundations,” she said, adding that this underlying reality makes the western suburb a potential treasure trove for hungry developers.

“We saw a concentration of distressed properties, but we also saw strong demand in areas that we want to focus on,” Rose said, referencing the Land Bank’s target communities.

But that the Land Bank has not specifically targeted a certain community doesn’t mean that it won’t collaborate in those areas, Rose noted.

During the May 13 meeting in Maywood, Broadview Mayor Sherman Jones asked what kind of partnership the Land Bank could create with communities, such as his, that weren’t selected.

“Let me be clear, because Broadview isn’t included [as one of] our focus communities doesn’t mean we don’t work in Broadview,” said Rose. “What it means is that I won’t be as aggressive [in Broadview] as I am in Maywood in terms of buying houses as they come along.”

Rose said that in targeted communities, the Land Bank may buy houses without having identified end users. In communities such as Broadview, however, homes and their end users should be identified in order to grease the wheels of collaboration between the municipality and the Land Bank.

Rose said the Land Bank has identified 219 vacant parcels in Maywood, 49 of which have been identified as having delinquent or forfeited taxes. The number of identified parcels hasn’t changed since White reported the same figure last year. The homes, Rose said, “is what we see as the universe of work to be done in Maywood.”

Rose noted that the Land Bank is already in the process of prepping for development a home at 238 S. 12th Avenue, a project that began on White’s watch.

“The home has been stabilized, boarded up and maintained and now we’re working to be able to convey this into the hands of someone who can bring it back on board,” Rose said. “We’re just starting the process of actually acquiring it. That’s going to take three t to four months,” he said, adding that the bank is simultaneously trying to identify a developer for the home.

“[Tonight] is about making sure we have sustainable communities,” Boykin said at the May 13 meeting. “It’s about making sure we get foreclosed properties, abandoned properties back onto the tax rolls and back into productive use so that we can make sure that we drive property values [up in] our neighborhoods.”

“There’s a lot of opportunity here in Maywood,” said Rose. “This is a village that can use our innovation. The result of our collaboration is going to be a stronger community.” VFP

Photo above: Rob Rose, the new executive director of the Cook County Land Bank Authority, introducing himself to Maywood at an informational session held May 13 and hosted by Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin. 

Board Reviews Comprehensive Plan; Hopes It Spurs Economic Development

Cook County Recorder of DeedsDSC_1435Doug Hammel talks with a resident about the new Comprehensive Plan before a planning and zoning meeting earlier this month.

DSC_1433Friday, December 19, 2014 || By Michael Romain || Updated: 6:36 PM

After the village’s Planning and Zoning Commission lent a unanimous seal of approval to Maywood’s new Comprehensive Plan (PDF:Maywood Rising Draft) earlier this month, members of the Board of Trustees deliberated on the plan at a December 10, Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting.

After listening to a presentation of a draft Plan by Doug Hammel, a senior associate with Houseal Lavigne, the consulting firm that produced the Plan, Board members brought up a range of issues with the document, foremost among them being whether or not it would help the village spur economic development.

Trustee Antonette Dorris was concerned with the village’s handling of brown fields, which are parcels of land or property that are difficult to expand, reuse or redevelop due to problems that may arise from contamination, pollution or hazardous materials. She also inquired as to whether or not staff was addressing empty buildings, the owners of which have no intentions or real plans of developing them.

Addressing this latter issue, Hammel said that many of those derelict buildings may be owned by people who don’t live in the community and “don’t feel invested” in its general upkeep. He emphasized the need for staff and elected officials to use the Comprehensive Plan as a policy guide that stresses the importance of maintaining properties throughout the village.

“It’s a tough issue to tackle and it just takes a firm policy stance,” Hammel said.

Attorney Michael Jurusik, addressing the brown fields, said that one way the village has mitigated the problem in the past has been to provide incentives to owners of potentially contaminated properties by defraying the costs of environmental remediation work.

“[The incentives are] another jewel in the tool box to try to help revitalize parts of the community,” he said.

Hammel noted that the lack of funding, however, is a common obstacle to municipalities who want to help ease the burden of dealing with potentially contaminated sites bore by private developers. He said that retrieving brown field cleanup funds is an “extremely competitive” process, since local governments of all kinds are dealing with similar problem sites that may be impeding economic development.

Either municipalities plan extensively to compete with other local governments for grant funds or fund the cleanup projects themselves.

In February of last year, the Maywood Board of Trustees authorized and approved a professional services contract with R.W. Collins to engage in environmental remediation of the properties at 101 and 115 West Lake Street. That project has cost upwards of $157,000 to date—which could prohibit the village from regularly paying for such projects on its own (PDF: RBM-Minutes-04-29-2014).

That reality may exacerbate what Trustee Michael Rogers referred to as leakage, retail market jargon for all of the money – from taxes, savings and import revenues – that leaves a local market.

Rogers wanted to know that if the Comprehensive Plan addressed the problem of leakage in Maywood, “which I suspect is pretty high,” he said.

Hammel said that his firm learned from studies and the comments of people in the community that “people want to spend money in Maywood, but can’t.” He noted that, in addition to identifying instances of retail leakage, would also need to develop the right kinds of demographics, infrastructure and sites.

Angela Smith, the village’s business development coordinator, said that the key to stopping Maywood’s retail leakage is through developing its natural business corridors, particularly the downtown area.

“Downtown Maywood is not importing money,” Smith said. “It’s not bringing people in the center of Maywood from other areas.”

Hammel said that Comprehensive Plan addresses this problem by suggesting development goals and policy plans that allow the village to both capture people traveling through its business corridors and better serve its residents.

The board voted unanimously to place final approval of the Plan on the next board meeting’s agenda. VFP

Stairway of the Stars Presents: Zat You, Santa Claus?

Stairway of the Stars, Maywood Fine Arts’ Dance Studio will present “Zat You, Santa Claus?” Holiday Dance Show this Saturday, December 20th, 7:00pm at Guerin Prep High School (8001 W. Belmont Road) in River Grove.  Join all the dancing elves, snowflakes and toys as they try to find Santa Claus on Christmas Eve!  Tickets are on sale now, Adults $10 (at the door $15) & Children/Seniors for $5.  For tickets or more information call Maywood Fine Arts at 708-865-0301.

Residents to Proposed Madison Street Natural Gas Fueling Station: ‘Thanks, but No Thanks’

Screenshot 2014-12-01 at 6.09.55 PMThe Madison Avenue side of the existing site of American Waste Haulers, where a proposed truck fueling station is to be built if the plan is authorized by the Maywood Board of Trustees. Google Maps.

Monday, December 1, 2014 || By Michael Romain || Updated: December 5, 2014 || 12:09 PM

While the truck-only fueling station presents an opportunity for Maywood to realize much-needed tax revenue, many residents say the economic benefit isn’t worth the environmental and health costs

MAYWOOD || A proposed natural gas fueling station has many residents who live within close proximity to what would be the development site fuming with frustration over the process by which it was brought to the village’s attention and its possible environmental ramifications.

The fueling station would be located at 2100 Madison Street, the current site of American Waste Haulers, a waste transfer station that handles biodegradable material.

According to a staff memo (PDF: Lavoie and Associates), the proposed development “includes demolishing three buildings and constructing a new office/maintenance building and the construction of a fueling station with pumps to serve three lanes of traffic.” The waste transfer station will  maintain its existing operations.

More than a dozen residents, many of whom live within the vicinity of the proposed fueling station, vented a range of concerns at a November 19, Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

Prominently among them, however, was a common complaint of longstanding among residents who live or venture near the Madison Avenue waste facility — a complaint that precedes the fueling station proposal.

“The fumes off of that thing are horrible,” said Commissioner Joe Ratley, referring to the putrid odor that emanates from the waste transfer station. He said that he could easily imagine the smell being enough to prohibit people from visiting friends and family who live near the facility.

His concern was echoed by many other residents, including Trustee Chery Ealey-Cross during a September 24, Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting, who brought it up after the proposal for the fueling station was presented to the Board.

“I’m a walker and I take the route and when I get in your area, I have to move fast,” Ealey-Cross said to William Vajdik, who owns and manages the waste transfer station. Ealey-Cross said that the odor is often so strong that it feels as though she’s “about to pass out” when she approaches the area.

Residents in attendance at the Planning meeting complained that American Waste Haulers doesn’t adequately care for its surroundings. The current concerns, many residents feel, will only be added to the potential problems that may arise after a truck fueling station is added to the waste transfer station.

The residents’ collective reasoning is, ‘If American Waste can’t take care of the operations that it’s currently responsible for, then how will they manage the added responsibilities of a fueling station?’

“I’m concerned about pollution along the Prairie Path,” said resident Loretta Brown, who is also a member of the Environmental and Beautification Commission, as well as a member of the Prairie Path Association.

Brown said that, in addition to the potential exhaust fumes that may come with the a fueling station, the point on the path that abuts the waste transfer station is currently an eyesore. She also brought up concerns about how pedestrians and bikers using the Path may be affected by the increased truck traffic.

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Sarah Lira echoed Brown’s concerns, noting that the area surrounding American Waste is littered with trash, odorous and, according to residents’ claims, has experienced numerous oil spills.

Tenner Ferguson, a senior citizen who’s been living on 20th Avenue in Maywood since 1962, said that she welcomes the added tax revenue that the village may realize from the fueling station, but not at the expense of her health and the wellbeing of her neighbors, many of whom are also senior citizens. She presented a petition with the names of 20 homeowners in the area, all of whom object to the proposed development.

“I want to see Maywood progressing, but not at the cost of the seniors and all the people living close to that place,” she said. “I wish you could pass by there and see what’s going on behind there with all those chemicals.”

Vajdik said that the odor that emanates from his facility comes from organic yard waste  and doesn’t present a health risk for residents. However, he also noted that he’s constantly trying to mitigate the odor through the application of surfactant-based spray on the waste. Surfactants are agents that act to disperse odor-causing bacteria.

American Waste Haulers services many small landscapers that will sometimes pile three days of grass clippings onto their vehicles, which starts to stink, Vajdik said. He noted that he often advises landscapers against piling on old grass clippings to prevent the accummulation of decomposed yard waste that leads to the odor.

“If the prevailing winds are from the north, there’s never an issue [with the smell],” Vajdik said. “When we have south winds, then [the odor[ blows north.”

But Vajdik didn’t address whether or not the surfactants present a potential threat to the surrounding environment and/or to the health of residents. As of press time, Vajdik could not be reached for comment.

According to a toxic substance profile composed by the UK Marine Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) Project, there are hundreds of compounds that may be used as surfactants and their toxicity levels vary. The actual threat potential of the surfactant that American Waste Haulers is using depends on the compound(s) it’s employing as surfactants.

Concept Plans

Screenshot 2014-12-01 at 6.15.59 PM

Screenshot 2014-12-01 at 6.07.14 PMRegular (top) and enlarged (bottom) concept plans of the fueling station development, extracted from a C.M. Lavoie & Associates memo. 

Costs and benefits

Both Vajdik and Christopher Lavoie of C.M. Lavoie & Associates, a structural engineering firm with offices in Downers Grove, Plainfield and Chicago, noted that the addition of the fueling station would provide a major solution to American Waste Hauler’s environmental and beautification issues — although it’s unclear how the fueling station would relieve residents’ odor issues.

According to a memo prepared by Lavoie & Associates, the trucks “utilizing the proposed fueling station will enter the site via the 25th Avenue entrance and exit onto 19th Avenue.” The station would operate 24 hours a day.

Christopher Lavoie said that, if approved, he anticipates the fueling station to begin operations by next year. During its initial years, it will serve conventional diesel fuel and will slowly transition to liquefied natural gas (LNG) within three years.

At the November 19, Planning meeting, Lavoie said that, in addition to the construction of the new office building and fueling station, the entire site of the fueling station and waste transfer station will also get new and improved screening and landscaping.

Lavoie mentioned that the diesel fueling tanks will be underground, while the LNG tanks will be above ground. Both tanks, and the entire facility, are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), he said — regulatory requirements that are “no different than [those of] any other gas station,” Lavoie said.

He also noted that, although the presence of exhaust fumes is inevitable, the truck traffic in the area won’t increase substantially above the heavy traffic that is already prevalent within the large strip of land that spans Bellwood and Maywood between 19th and 25th Avenues.

Lavoie said that — contrary to residents concerns that the fueling station would attract additional, unwanted truck traffic to the area — the fueling station would only be taking advantage of the enormous amount of truck traffic that is already there.

Angela Smith, Maywood’s business development coordinator, said that the area between the two suburbs has long been a hotbed for trucks.

“This is a huge trucking area,” Smith said. “Maywood is a gem as far as trucking goes. I can’t tell you how many calls I get to do truck storage.”

Lavoie projects that within the first three years of operation, the fuel station would service between 8 and 10 trucks an hour. Based on a 24-hour operating schedule, with $4.25/gallon for diesel fuel and a two percent local sales tax, the village could realize nearly $320,000 a year in sales tax revenue during its first year of operation.

Sales Tax Revenue Projections 

Screenshot 2014-12-01 at 6.06.49 PM

Those projections, however, may need to be downgraded by at least half, considering that Maywood’s current sales tax is one percent and the planning commission recommended that the developers reduce the proposed hours of operation for the fueling station.

But even if Lavoie’s sales tax projections are cut in half, the amount of annual sales tax revenue the village could stand to receive would be rather substantial. And that’s not considering the possible increase in property taxes the site could capture once the development site is renovated, Smith noted.

There were six subject properties listed on the petition C.M. Lavoie & Associated submitted as part of the development process. In 2013, according to the Cook County Property Tax Portal, those six properties brought in more than $65,000 in property tax revenue to the village.

“American Waste is one of the larger property tax payers to the village,” Smith said on November 19. “This would allow the asssesor to revisit the site and the village would then caputre the improvement to that site by inceasing the taxes to this project.”

Smith said that Vajdik, who said that he’s been in business in Maywood for more than 40 years, has never taken advantage of any tax incentives or subsidies to alleviate the tax burden on American Waste’s properties.

At the September 24, LLOC meeting, attorney Michael Jurusik said that the village has the option of exercising its Home Rule authority to implement a fuel tax so that it can capture even more revenue from the proposed fuel station.

In the past, Jurusik noted, the Board has been against this measure because it would also increase the taxes for every other gas station operating in Maywood — a collective cost that may not be worth the benefits accruing from a single site, Jurusik pointed out.

The fueling station’s potential benefits and Lavoie’s safety assurances, though,  weren’t sufficient relief for residents like Charles Flowers, who didn’t think that Lavoie’s revenue projections and background research were exhaustive enough, or that the developers included enough stakeholders in the process.

“This project is top-heavy economically,” Flower said. “No one has to have their quality of life affected by a project. The chart displayed in the PowerPoint in terms of the number of trucks is a guestimate. I would dare say there are feasibility studies to determine the amount of of traffic that would come in and out.”

Flowers said that the block clubs within vicinity of the development site weren’t consulted, a sign he said reflected what could be low expectations on the part of Lavoie and American Waste concerning the level of sophistication among Maywood residents.

“Yes, natural gas is clean, but it’s not the cleanest,” Flowers said. “I was looking for some compound information here that I didn’t see. [Those fuel storage tanks] do open up the possibility of water contamination [so] there are tons of things, research-based, that need to be expressed. Economic development is great, but you have to satisfy the basic needs. We don’t need guestimations, we need exactness,” he said.

“This wouldn’t happen in Winnetka,” said Flowers. “They would’ve demanded accountability before you even got to this point. Don’t play us. We are an intelligent people who can ask the right questions.”

As part of the development process, Lavoie was required to mail a public notice of the intent to build a fueling station to all properties within 350 feet in all directions of the development site, but several residents who were in attendance at the November 19, meeting said that they didn’t know anything about the project until it was almost too late to form a response.

One woman, Dorothy McAlister, of the 800 block of S. 21st Avenue, said that she received the notice not long before the November 19 meeting.

“We didn’t know anything about this coming in our area,” said another Maywood resident, Mary Pepper Brown, who also lives in the affected area. Like Tenner Ferguson, Brown submitted a petition comprising about 20 signatures of residents who live in the 800 block of South 20th Avenue and who are firmly against the fueling station being developed.

Lavoie said that he was careful to double-check property pin numbers to ensure that the notices were being sent out to the requisite addresses. Karl Palmquist, Maywood’s planning coordinator, said that his office received receipts confirming that the notices had been mailed.

However, Lavoie acknowledged that he didn’t approach the 600 and 800 block block clubs because he wasn’t aware that they existed.

Angela Smith, though, tried reassuring the residents that this wasn’t due to a lack of effort. She said that Lavoie and his team has submitted dozens of drafts of the proposal, most of which were changed in response to concerns expressed by residents and village officials.

In response to residents’ concerns that he and his client, American Waste Haulers, were taking advantage of the perceived unsophistication of Maywood residents, Lavoie insisted that their interest in developing a fueling station in Maywood was primarily due to the property’s configuration and its proximity to 25th Avenue and the Eisenhower Expressway.

“[Trucks] can get in and out of this area without going on a residential street,” Lavoie said, noting that there are several buffers between the proposed site, and both the Prairie Path and residential properties. The adjacent space in Bellwood, he said, doesn’t offer those advantages.

The majority sentiment among the Planning and Zoning Commissioners was to arrive at a middle-ground between recommending that the site be built, but only after attending to the most pressing of the residents’ concerns.

The Commission voted affirmatively to recommend to the village Board that the fueling station be built, but with several caveats. They included that the operating time not be 24 hours, that more traffic signals be placed on the streets surrounding the site and that the American Waste address beautification issues, particularly along Prairie Path.

Commissioner Joe Ratley was the only vote against the recommendation. The next step is for the proposal to go before the Maywood Board of Trustee, which is the body that has the power to actually authorize the development.

“Natural gas is the next wave of energy in this country and here’s an opportunity for Maywood to at least be on the forefront,” said Commissioner William Smith.

“We have to look at [this development] from the perspective of what is right for us and if this is going to give us a solution in terms of money and keep the residents happy, I’m all for it,” said Commissioner Lynn Vallow.

“A lot of the problem is that the owner has not paid attention over the years,” said Commission Chairman Cliff Christianson.

“When you talk about a new project, [residents] are hesitant,” he said. “Whatever happens here, [the owner of American Waste] will probably pay more attention in the future and when another project comes up, he’ll find that the people will be more receptive to it.” VFP

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On the Set: ‘Chicago Fire’ TV Show Films Helicopter Crash Scene in Maywood

Screenshot 2014-10-13 at 4.12.25 PMThe roof of the Baptist Retirement Home gets transformed into a helicopter scene for the NBC show Chicago Fire. Below, left, the front of the fictionalized Benson Park Apartments. Photos by Michael Romain for the Village Free Press.

Screenshot 2014-10-13 at 4.13.51 PMMonday, October 13, 2014 || By Michael Romain 

MAYWOOD | Local fans of the television show Chicago Fire may recognize their own neighborhood in an upcoming episode of the NBC television show, whose stars and film crew were setup early this morning within the vicinity of the former Baptist Retirement Home at 316 Randolph Street. They were in the village to shoot a helicopter crash scene that will air during episode 8 this season in November or December, according to one of the crew members.

The roof of the Baptist Home, which is undergoing renovations in real life, was outfitted with an actual helicopter that dangled precariously on the building’s edge. Set designers and craftsmen manicured the front of the Home with grass sodding, trees and flowers to transform it into the fictional Benson Park Apartments.

“It’s never looked so good,” resident Gordon Hansen said of the long-abandoned building. The landscaping will stay in place after the crew leaves.

Across the street from the helicopter scene, Maywood residents Sheila Wilcox-Smith and her husband William watched as their home was transformed into a character in the show. A  camera crew had pitched a tent in their driveway and was filming inside.

Lennel Grace, president of Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NOMCO), looked on with Ken Watkins of the Maywood Historic Preservation Commission.

Grace said that the Smiths’ home might have been selected because of its classic foursquare architecture, which typifies many of the homes in the Chicago area.

The Smiths said that the film crew was very accommodating, even offering them breakfast on the set, but the most thrilling part of playing a bit role in a nationally syndicated television drama is the fact that the action is happening literally in their own backyard.

The entertainment industry has long been a much-coveted source of local revenue, which explains why municipalities such as Maywood and Chicago are often so eager to lend their fire and police resources to the sets.

Many of the crewmen and extras on set are local hires said one member of the crew.

“It’s a locally based Chicago show, so producers set up an office in Chicagoland and pick out their department heads, who will make their own local hires,” he said.

Maywood’s Business Development Coordinator Angela Smith noted that the village stands to benefit from the filming in a variety of ways. Crews will be fed by local restaurants in the area and they’ll pay building fees to construct scenes such as the one that was taking place on the roof of the Baptist Retirement Home. They’ll also pay for a permit to film here.

“I’m just happy they’re filming in the community,” Sheila said. VFP

Chicago Fire stars Monica Raymund, David Eigenberg and Charlie Barnett and airs Tuesdays, 10/9 central on NBC.

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Maywood Fine Arts Seeking to Build Brand New 5th Avenue Dance Studio, Eyeing 2016 Completion Date

Screenshot 2014-09-22 at 9.38.46 PMThe former site of MFA’s dance studio, also known as Stairway to the Stars, before it was demolished in 2011 due to an electrical fire that broke out inside of the Bronco thrift shop. Google Maps. Below left, Lois and Ernie Baumann, with MFA supporters, receiving a $300,000 state grant from Rep. Chris Welch that would jump-start the organization’s fundraising efforts.

Maywood Fine ArtsMonday, September 22, 2014 || By Michael Romain || Updated: Monday, September 29, 2014, 1:03 PM

More than four years after an electrical fire devastated its dance studio at 20 North 5th Avenue, the nonprofit arts organization Maywood Fine Arts (MFA) is looking to come back better than ever. The organization has launched a capital campaign and is looking to buy a derelict Village-owned parking lot that sits at 18 N. 5th Avenue, adjacent the empty space where the organization’s old studio once stood before it burned down. MFA’s ultimate goal is to build a new dance studio that will span the parcels of land at 14 to 18 N. 5th Avenue.

At a September 10, public hearing, the Maywood Board of Trustees voted unanimously to consider selling the land to MFA for an appraised value of $30,000. The board’s unanimous approval is a good indicator that it more than likely voted in favor of the sale at a September 16, regular board meeting, where most board decisions are binding.

According to MFA managing director Katherine Bus, who presented the redevelopment proposal at the public hearing, the organization is seeking to build “a beautiful one-story building” that would house the dance school and offer more community classes, such as adult exercise courses and more general fitness courses in partnership with Loyola University.

“We’re hoping this space would allow us to reach more people and also we’re hoping this would be a catalyst for the business district,” said Bus. “We are based in Maywood, we care about Maywood very deeply. I live in Maywood. Our executive director [Lois Baumann] was born and raised in Maywood. So, we’ve got some deep, deep feelings for Maywood. We’re hoping this building would attract some new development.”

According to Bus, MFA teaches more than 900 children a week in a range of artistic areas that include dance, tumbling, music, drama, art, karate and circus arts. MFA has owned a property on the corner of 5th Avenue and Lake Street for 17 years, but currently rents space at First Congregational Church of Maywood a few blocks away for the program’s approximately 400 dance students.

Bus noted that approximately 35 percent of its students come from Maywood, while the rest come from places as far out as Schaumburg and Bolingbrook. However, many of those non-residents are the offspring of former Maywoodians and people with deep ties to the town who continue to bring their children back because of the quality programming. According to one estimate, a substantial number of those students are on scholarship.

“Look, you’ve gotta be able to bring your child to a dancing class, is what my husband and I think. Even if you can’t afford it,” said Lois Baumann in a 2011 interview. Baumann founded MFA along with her husband, Ernie Baumann, more than thirty years ago.

Before the electrical fire devastated the studio at 20 N. 5th Avenue, Lois Baumann said that MFA had been planning on purchasing the building from its owner, Walther Lutheran High School, in order to renovate it.

“[W]e were days away from getting the title to the building,” Baumann told Time Out Chicago in 2011.

It may appear rather circuitous and late-coming, but MFA’s consolation prize may ultimately turn out to be even grander than its original goal. Now, instead of renovating a single three-story building, the organization is seeking to build from scratch on double the real estate. But the $30,000 purchase of property from the Village of Maywood and MFA’s entrance into a redevelopment agreement with the Village are only the first steps in what is sure to be a much longer and complex process.

According to attorney Mike Marrs, MFA will make a $5,000 down payment on the $30,000 purchase price and will also be expected to pay for any ancillary fees, such legal costs, that are associated with the sale’s closing, which is expected to take place by the end of this month. After that closing, and once MFA has possession of the property, it will go out and raise funds for construction. Marrs noted that MFA’s deadline for getting those funds lined up is June 15, 2015. Their deadline for construction to begin is July 1, 2015 and they anticipate the building’s construction to be completed by January 1, 2016.

Municipal attorney Michael Jurusik said that MFA’s proposed redevelopment project would have to go through the typical zoning process and that the organization would need to return to the Board of Trustees at a later date as the project moves through the various stages of approval. He also noted that a public hearing for this project was necessary, since the proposed redevelopment is within the St. Charles Avenue Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district.

TIF law requires that municipalities considering redevelopment projects located within TIF districts must hold public hearings on the matter and give public notice that a proposal is on the table. In addition, they’re required to entertain any competing alternative proposals if any exist. In this case, there were no competing proposals to be reviewed.

By at least one estimate, MFA would need to raise about $3 million to complete the building. In July of last year, MFA received a $150,000 state grant delivered by State Rep. Chris Welch (D-7th) that would go towards its capital campaign.

At the September 10, public hearing, MFA’s proposal received some minor scrutiny from Trustee Cheryl Ealey-Cross, who said that some residents wanted to know whether or not MFA would be required to pay property taxes once the building was up and running, and what benefit the project would bring to Maywood.

“Residents should be entitled to hear what are the benefits, because we’re in a TIF zone and tax money is being taken from the schools,” Ealey-Cross said.

When Angela Smith, Maywood’s business development coordinator, said that, as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, MFA would not be required to pay property taxes, a dialogue began among trustees and residents on the intangible benefits that MFA already brings to the Village.

Katherine Bus said that, before MFA took over the building it now owns on the corner of 5th Avenue and Lake Street, prostitutes and drug dealers domineered the property.

“When we took over, they went away. That’s what we’re hoping to do in a very poor excuse for a parking lot,” she said, before also noting that the new building would attract much needed outside business to the area with the incredible volume of students and parents it attracts everyday.

“At the end of the day, all resources need to be re-channeled into things that enhance the quality of life,” said Trustee Michael Rogers. “Things that are important aren’t always about the dollar.”

Echoing Rogers, Maywood resident Lennel Grace, president of Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NOMCO), said that MFA’s proposal was “a quality of life issue,” but also noted that quality of life and economic benefit aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

“I love the fact that [over] 60 percent of those people are coming from someone else,” Grace said during public comments in reference to MFA’s student and parent base. “The idea is to get the money that is coming from their pockets into our pockets.” VFP

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly noted that a state grant delivered to MFA by State Rep. Chris Welch is $300,000, instead of $150,000. This article has since been updated to account for that correction.

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