Flooding, direct access to Interstate 294 and aging infrastructure were weaknesses mentioned by business owners during a July 9 meeting at the Franklin Park community center.
That input is the second step in creating a plan to improve the industrial area of Franklin Park. Nicole Woods, an associate planner with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, led a dozen or so business owners plus village staff in collecting their ideas.
The planning agency is working on the plan as several capitol projects near O’Hare airport are being designed. Among the most important for Franklin Park industry are on- and off-ramps to I-294 and an extension of Taft Avenue.
The planned ramps are part of the Elgin-O’Hare Access project, scheduled to begin construction in 2018. Equally important, a bridge will extend Taft Avenue from Franklin Avenue, over the Canadian Pacific rail yard, and connect to Irving Park Road.
“It’s tremendous time savings,” said John Schneider, director of community development in Franklin Park. “It will create accessibility to the airport like no other place has.”
During the July 9 meeting, three business owners mentioned attracting skilled workers as a challenge.
“We might look into how to better connect these businesses with workforce development programs,” Woods said.
Jim Johnston, owner of Key Interiors, would like to see improvements to the western section of Franklin Avenue than runs through the industrial area.
“We’re grateful for the resurfacing of Franklin Avenue but I think its needs to be widened,” Johnston said.
Terry Piper of Precision Steel Warehouse, wants the village government to continue its efforts to reduce flooding.
“It’s not easy to run a business when you flood the last 4 out of 5 years,” Piper said. “(During the last flooding) we couldn’t even get in (building) the next day. There were eight inches of water in the office and eight inches in the shop floor.”
Next, the planning agency plans to contact 250 employers in Franklin Park along with industrial real-estate brokers and others with a stake in the outcome. After that, the agency will create an existing conditions report, then a draft plan that will be made available to the public for comment. A final plan will likely be completed by spring 2014.
For two years after the plan is finished, the metropolitan planning agency will assist the village in finding money and implementing the plan’s proposals.