The West Cook County Housing Collaborative of the Metropolitan Planning Council will host a community workshop in Oak Park, part of their Homes for a Changing Region Project on Sept. 8. This interactive workshop, which runs from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Nineteenth Century Charitable Association, will allow local residents to voice their opinions on how, and where, the village's residential housing should evolve.
The workshop hopes to engage the public in a creative way, allowing them to participate in an exercise that Nancy Firfer, senior advisor for the project, describes as "like Monopoly." Attendees will form small groups and discuss the future of the village's residential housing. They will do this by placing game pieces, representing various types of housing, on maps of Oak Park.
The maps cover the entire village and two specific "target areas," said Housing Program Manager Tammie Grossman. The areas will be the intersections of Oak Park Avenue and Madison Street and the area around the Oak Park Avenue CTA Blue Line station.
"What we're hoping," said Grossman, "is that we can use this information to develop a long-term program to address the housing needs of the community."
According to Village Trustee Colette Lueck, liaison to the housing program and Oak Park's representative to the Housing Collaborative, workshops like this are a great way to engage people in such a process "because they're so much fun." The visual aspect, she adds, helps people understand.
Lueck said the way the village plans and supports housing is the linchpin of everything in the village, citing housing stock's effect on residents drawn to the area, which in turn affects the schools.
"Anything we can do to keep housing stock strong is a good effort," she said.
Both Grossman and Lueck believe transportation will be important to Oak Park's future. For instance, Lueck cites the ability to get from Oak Park to the Loop quickly and by multiple forms of transportation as something that makes the village appealing.
"As transportation costs rise," Grossman said, "people will be moving toward inner-city suburbs."
While the planning is mostly intended to affect local policies, the plans developed in each of the five West Cook County suburbs in the collaborative will be integrated into a larger plan to guide the area's development as a whole.
"Planning has to be done regionally," said Lueck, "not one small village at a time."