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Downtowns are only for cities, right? Not so fast.

We’ve seen successful downtowns develop in suburbs like Evanston, Oak Park and Geneva. Other suburbs have taken notice like Orland Park and Wheeling, and the RTA has always been there to help.

Over the last 19 years, our Community Planning program has assisted municipalities around the six county region with $19 million in funding of 187 projects that range from transit improvement plans to transit-oriented development (TOD) plans. These projects are essential to lay the groundwork for successful downtowns.

Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune highlighted what’s recently going on in Bartlett. The Village passed a TOD plan last year and has started implementing it to create a more vibrant downtown near its Metra station. The RTA gave $100,000 to Bartlett to help put its TOD plan together, while the Village added $25,000. The plan includes improvements to the Village’s frequently flooded bike path, new crosswalks and new, multi-unit residential buildings and an office/retail building. Starting in the spring of next year, the RTA will be funding and providing assistance for Bartlett to update their zoning code to be supportive of future TOD developments.

One item that caught my eye was a business owner saying the TOD plan was a “golden ticket” to attract more people and make downtown “less sleepy.” It’s an interesting way to look at TODs. These plans aim to create walkable environments near transit that contain a mix of restaurants, stores and other forms of entertainment. The Tribune article also mentions how great TODs are for property values, especially how they hold their value during economic downturns.

As a next step towards implementation, we are funding and providing assistance for Bartlett to update their zoning code in the TOD area.  Work on that should kick off spring 2018.

Next year, we will be celebrating 20 years of our Community Planning program. We’ve done some great work and you can find out more about them on RTAMS. I look forward to see what the next 20 years holds for this great program!

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Read posts about how the RTA collaborates with CTA, Metra and Pace to plan, invest in and move the Chicago region’s transit system.

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