'We Have 1965 Stores' on Harlem: Palos Heights Mayor
Mayor Bob Straz identified a need for 'forward thinkers' who can change the city's business landscape during Tuesday's State of Palos Heights address. He also highlighted the city's fiscal responsibility and ongoing effort to draw new business.
While the Palos Heights' business community added more than two dozen new stores and restaurants and efforts continue to spruce up Harlem Avenue, areas still remain that date back decades and "forward thinkers" are required to spur redevelopment.
"One of the problems we have is that we have 1965 stores up and down Harlem Avenue," Straz said. "We need forward thinkers to come in and change some of those buildings."
"That's how things happen in Palos Heights," he added.
Straz's address, given at a Palos Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon inside Moraine Valley Community College, touched on positives Palos Heights saw in 2012, among which includes maintaining a budget surplus, improving the city's business community and furthering the quality of life for its residents.
The strongest calls for action seemed to come during Straz sections on Harlem Avenue development. Projects such as rehab of the former Foot Locker location, a section near the Jewel-Osco set for 2-3 new stores and a "dynamic" development proposed for the Ben Franklin building, which is on a block that attracted news business, all will help "change the way people will look at Palos Heights," Straz said.
Last year, 25 news businesses opened in Palos Heights. Both Jewel-Osco and McDonald's reopened after a complete teardown and a new Wendy's moved into town in 2012. Palos Heights' vacancy rate dropped to 11 percent, down from 15 percent two years ago. Straz pointed to an oncoming community development program, run Community Development Coordinator Marisa Kolman, in his highlights of the burgeoning business front.
"It's not done yet but we're starting to see activity in town," Straz said.
Chief among Palos Heights accomplishments not only over the past year but for the last decade is its fiscal restraint.
Palos Heights is running a budget surplus and has for the last 11 years, Straz said, "unlike the State of Illinois, who right now owes us about two months of sales tax." At least a portion municipal spending in last 10-12 years also has come from grants and other funding opportunities.
Controlling spending has been, for the most part, the factor for maintaining the ongoing surplus, helping the city avoid raising taxes and fees, Straz said. Reducing expenditures helped Palos Heights avoid busting the budget last year when revenues dropped $500,000.
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