With assistance from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), two communities in Cook County are working together to enhance recreation and attract business near the well-traveled Illinois Prairie Path.
Through our Local Technical Assistance program, CMAP is partnering with both Berkeley and Hillside, as well as the Berkeley Park District, to develop their vision of turning the area into a community destination with recreational amenities, dining choices, and entertainment options.
The shared Taft Avenue retail corridor borders both communities and intersects with the multi-use nature trail. By increasing pedestrian and bicycle activity in the area, Berkeley and Hillside hope to attract restaurants and retailers that cater to trail users.
These corridor improvements also can lead to regional benefits and support neighboring communities by promoting inclusive growth, strengthening resiliency, and prioritizing investments — principles of ON TO 2050, the region’s long-range plan.
“As part of this collaboration, both villages view the Prairie Path and Taft Avenue as a great partnership that could serve as a viable economic corridor and epicenter for the community and visitors alike,” said Rudy Espiritu, village administrator for Berkeley.
The project is also meant to improve quality of life for residents in the surrounding region. By improving access, the project can maximize the potential of the Illinois Prairie Path, which spans more than 60 miles and connects to other communities in Cook, DuPage, and Kane counties.
While the pandemic turned public engagement for the project mostly virtual, ideas and input gathered from the community will continue to inform the plan and its recommendations.
Through the early stages of the project, residents have said they would like better lighting along the path, more gardens and streetscaping, and concerts and other community events at parks along the path. Community members still can share feedback by visiting the Engage with CMAP website.
Later this year, the project partners will post informational posters along the path to engage with trail users directly. To connect with residents with limited digital access, printed surveys were distributed earlier in the process and there was a strong response. Outreach efforts also have included encouraging students at area high schools who use the path to participate in the planning process.
The project team soon will develop key recommendations for the plan. Community members will have opportunities to review and share their reactions during workshops.
Once complete, the corridor plan will lay out improvements addressing economic development, transportation, and other issues, along with steps on how to finance and implement the shared vision between Berkeley and Hillside.
Is your community interested in CMAP’s planning services? Visit our Local Technical Assistance program page and learn how to be part of the more than 200 planning projects that have helped communities prosper.