2019 State of the City Address
Metamorphosis…the transformation begins
Monday, May 20, 2019 at 6:00 p.m.
City Hall, 475 Main Street
Presented by Mayor Ruben Pineda
Good evening and thank you for being here tonight. There is a lot to share about the state of our City, but before we get started, I’d like to thank the Western DuPage Chamber for hosting this evening.
Dave and his team, do a fabulous job providing Chamber members the very best in services, advocacy, and training. Last year they even went the extra mile, or more accurately, 6,977 miles, to offer members an opportunity to broaden their world view by sponsoring a trip to China. Those of us who took advantage of the experience returned with a greater sense of the beauty, culture and people of this vast and complex country. We appreciate all that the Chamber is doing in our community to keep us competitively positioned both here and abroad.
I would also like to recognize and thank members of our City Council for their fearless leadership, enormous energy, and unwavering support. Each of them brings a unique perspective to their role on the Council, while sharing the same overarching commitment to better our community for future generations. This ability to work through differences, weigh options, and arrive at consensus is enviable in today’s political climate. I think it’s because we all understand the issues are bigger than any one of us, and we are, at the heart of it, public servants. Thank you for your service. Please stand for a round of well-deserved applause.
We are also honored to have other elected officials among us this evening. Words cannot express the gratitude we feel for the support and assistance you provide to our City. As you will hear later in my presentation, so much of our success this past year is largely due to the contributions and efforts you have made on our behalf.
Together we have dug our shovels into the ground and moved mountains, and we couldn’t have done it without you. Would all of our local, county and state representatives and all members of inter-governmental Boards please stand.
This is my seventh State of the City Address and for all seven of those years, and 21 before that, my wife, Julie Pineda, has been there for me. Thank you Julie, for your love and support and for being the wind beneath my wings.
As you may have heard, 2019 has been dubbed The Year of the Butterfly in West Chicago, and for good reason. In many ways, our journey as a community closely mirrors the delicate, yet resilient, gossamer-winged creature known as the Monarch. The process of butterfly metamorphosis begins almost unnoticed with a tiny egg which undergoes a series of changes resulting in something new and different. What a perfect analogy for the transformation that is beginning in West Chicago.
Take a look at what’s in store. (show video)
Let’s start with the momentum that has been growing at the DuPage Business Center. Ground was broken for three new developments last October. Those opportunities I referred to at last year’s State of the City as “bubbling up” did indeed come to a full boil and materialize. Suncast Corporation, Norix Group, Inc. and Greco and Sons, Inc., signal a renaissance for the 800-acre parcel on the DuPage Airport Authority property.
These major developments were made possible because of the visionary leadership of several other taxing bodies who worked with the City to create a strong incentive package that attracted these high quality developers and outstanding companies.
Our partners were able to see the big picture of just how significantly these developments would translate to enhanced ongoing revenue streams for West Chicago. Their economic savvy and understanding of the stake we all have in our community’s growth and prosperity was demonstrated a thousand percent with their decision to enter development agreements for these landmark deals.
Before I go any further with details of the economic impact of the Suncast, Norix and Greco developments, I’d like to introduce these community allies, without whom these deals would not have happened. Will all representatives of School Districts 33 and 94, our local Library District, Fire Protection District, and DuPage Airport Authority, please stand so we may acknowledge and thank you for your vision, collaboration, and contribution to West Chicago’s future.
Estimates show that the Suncast and Norix projects will jointly provide nearly 400 permanent and more than 600 construction jobs, generating a combined $94 million in economic impact.
The new developments, coupled with two other currently pending transactions – one for a 200,000 square foot distribution facility representing a $15 million investment, and another for a 300,000 square foot distribution facility with a 180,000 square foot Phase Two expansion, amount to more than $24 million in purchased land, encompassing 170-plus acres.
We think we’ve cracked the code on attracting quality development and hope our partners agree that the shared success of this creative strategy of customized incentives will encourage continued collaborative efforts that will benefit all of us in the long-term.
In other exciting development news, the City issued a Request for Proposals for our Central Main Street Redevelopment Plan in 2018. The Central Main Street area generally covers all of City-owned land between City Hall and the historic downtown. If you haven’t already gone through the Plan, I urge you to do so for the wealth of information it contains. It is located on the Community Development page of the City’s website.
We hope to select a developer for one or more phases of the Plan later this year. This once in a generation opportunity will realize West Chicago’s enormous transit-oriented development potential. The Plan calls for the construction of new residential dwellings, including luxury, high-rise, mixed-use apartments, townhomes, and low rise multi-family units, which will help attract and sustain retail establishments and re-energize the Downtown.
Add to that beautiful open space which will include a variety of active and passive program options, and potentially small retail amenities, this Plan represents the largest single physical transformation to downtown West Chicago in its history.
This building at 475 Main Street, will most likely fold into this redevelopment opportunity, which has prompted us to vision for a future City Hall location. While the timeline and location for this has not yet been determined, we are looking to incorporate a new City Hall within the footprint of a larger civic center development which should include another new public green space in the West Washington Street area.
We are hopeful to have much more to share once we begin the selection process for a developer for Phase One of the Central Main Street Redevelopment Plan.
The creation of a Tax Increment Finance or TIF district covering 161 acres of land south of Rt. 38 between Kress Road and the BNSF rail crossing immediately west of Commerce Drive that was approved by the City Council in December of 2017, has assisted development in that corridor.
Recent inquiries indicate that multiple projects of different types may be anticipated within the Fabyan/Roosevelt TIF district which will contribute to the health and vibrancy of the area and the local economy.
Development in the Fabyan/Roosevelt TIF district will provide a variety of economic benefits to West Chicago:
• New property tax revenue that can be used for a variety of public purposes and projects
• New jobs – the most recent proposal for a warehouse/logistics facility would generate roughly 150 new jobs in the community
• An increase in the number of local employees and visitors to West Chicago, with both groups enhancing sales tax collection.
There’s good news for two vacant car dealerships, the former Ford dealer on Roosevelt Road will become a seller of pre-owned luxury vehicles and the former Volkswagen dealer on North Avenue is opening as another pre-owned vehicle dealer. Both will serve as great tax revenue generators for the City.
Schramm Construction is making great progress on the new Ditch Witch Midwest facility on Atlantic Drive. Ditch Witch provides quality products for purchase or rent, as well as parts and service for underground construction. The new facility will include two advanced training rooms and over ½ acre of outdoor space to educate clients on the proper use of equipment and the overall Ditch Witch Midwest safety goals.
At the Menards parcel, we welcome a new car wash and the long-awaited traffic signal for North Avenue which will certainly assist not only traffic patterns, but also future investment decisions.
Unfortunately, with all this good news, we also suffered a business loss, which had emotions running high and which reverberated throughout the State, the closing of the Cascade Drive-in Theater. As you all know by now, the owner of the property chose not to renew the Cascade’s lease and the business was forced to close. The reality of this situation was strictly a private matter between a property owner and tenant and the City had no legal authority to intervene. We were lucky to have had this iconic business in our community since it opened in 1961. The City’s role now is to work with the property owner or developer to ensure that future land use is complimentary of our community’s character and respects the residential areas and Wheaton Academy to the south.
Remaining positive about the future, West Chicago’s amazing corporate partner, Ball Horticultural Company, has chosen to expand its headquarters here in our community with the construction of additional greenhouse spaces and an Innovation Center that will further the research and development that has kept them a global leader in all facets of horticulture. This will be an approximate 20 million dollar project. We are grateful for Ball Seed’s commitment and support of our City.
All told, we have seen 62 new businesses come into West Chicago in the last 12 months. Of that 62, five new restaurants (2 of which will open later this summer) will provide fresh, new flavors to the West Chicago dining experience.
The City’s Economic Development efforts, which were outlined in the West Chicago Strategic Plan, have been a primary focus of ours, designed to increase and diversify the City’s tax and real estate tax bases, allowing the City to become more self-sufficient by generating revenues from within the City and reducing dependency on outside revenue sources. This is critical especially in light of the State continuing to withhold the funds we have historically relied on to balance our General Fund Budget.
Moving on to other noteworthy news, let’s turn the focus to the Administrative Services Department. Within the Divisions of IT and GIS, improvements, upgrades and enhancements have been made during the fiscal year with projects being completed that benefit internal and external users.
The GIS Division has expanded web maps and applications that are located on the City Mapping Portal for public use by creating and implementing web applications for America in Bloom, Blooming Fest and the Food Festival, to name a few, in addition to fulfilling other map and data requests.
The IT Division worked closely with the City’s contracted database application development vendor, along with the City’s Police Department, and developed in-house adjudication hearing programs for police citations, local ordinance violations, administrative tows, parking tickets and code compliance.
Also improving police services, Chief Michael Uplegger was instrumental in getting Police Body Worn Cameras to enhance the community’s trust and help create a safer West Chicago and reduce the City’s liability.
Studies consistently show that these cameras decrease external and false complaints, police use of force, court overtime and response to resistance. In March of 2018, a group of West Chicago Police Officers volunteered to wear and field-test body cameras while working on patrol. After a yearlong trial period, the City has purchased additional body cameras and beginning on March 8, 2019, all police officers have been equipped with and are wearing them.
Last year, West Chicago was rocked to the core by two egregious crimes, both isolated incidents that took place in our own community. Our hearts go out to the family and friends of each of the victims. While it’s a small comfort to those who lost their loved ones,
I am gratified that the fine work of our police personnel and our relationships with the State’s Attorney’s Office and the DuPage County Major Crimes Task Force allowed for a swift and successful conclusion in the investigation and resulted in justice being served. West Chicago prides itself as a safe community.
When something unfortunate happens, we are as transparent with the information as the ongoing investigation allows us to be without compromising our officers’ ability to apprehend the responsible persons. We rely on community members to report suspicious or troubling activities happening in their neighborhood by calling 9-1-1 immediately. We hope to reinvigorate our Neighborhood Watch Program and have also established a link on our website for voluntary registration of home security cameras. Should a crime be committed in a neighborhood, officers conduct neighborhood canvasses for additional witnesses or evidence.
This registration program gives them an opportunity to go directly to where a security camera is located, and with the assistance of the security camera owner, view the video to determine if the crime, suspect, or suspect vehicle was captured. The location of all registered cameras is secure and only available to West Chicago Police Department personnel. This program is completely free and there is no obligation to provide video footage if requested.
We continually promote engagement opportunities between the public and our police officers whether it’s at a Police Station Open House, National Night Out or Car Safety Seat Check. We have created a full-time position for a Community Relations Officer for the Police Department, and we have partnered with www.crimereports.com to provide citizens access to crime information like the date, time, block and type of call.
The link may be found on the Police page of the City’s website, or in the drop-down menu of Quick Links found at the top of its homepage.
We’ve introduced a monthly event – Coffee with a Cop. The informal morning gatherings have no agendas or presentations. Like my Coffee with Mayor Program they simply provide an opportunity to chat about topics of interest or concern to attendees. Coffee with a Cop is always held the first Wednesday of the month, times and locations will vary in order to give everyone an opportunity to attend, so check the City’s website, or the LED sign at Main and 59 to find out where and what time the next Coffee will be taking place.
Responding to the tragedies inflicted by recent gun violence in Aurora, the West Chicago Police Department provided certified Active Shooter Response Training in April.
This training, which was open and free to the public, provided good information on how to recognize the signs of potential violence which may occur anywhere and what to expect after an active shooter incident takes place.
Another program, the Citizens Emergency Response Training, or CERT, is an eight week course that is designed to provide basic training in disaster preparedness, which increases the ability of citizens to survive until responders or other assistance arrives. A new course started in April and we will offer another later this year. Please consider signing up if you haven’t already.
Forestry Program objectives continued to focus on the management of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) with soil insecticidal treatments being completed in July 2018.
Public Works Director Rob Flatter and his team make sure West Chicago’s tree stock is diverse and healthy, replacing damaged or diseased trees on a regular basis in order to reduce the high cost of doing so in any one calendar year. This year, the City’s involvement with America in Bloom provided the opportunity to secure a CN EcoConnexions – From the Ground Up Matching Grant of $25,000 which will help defray the cost of approximately 200 parkway trees throughout West Chicago.
Through the combined efforts of West Chicago’s America in Bloom Committee and our Public Works Department, improvements at Sesquicentennial Park will be made to refurbish existing benches and brick pavers, and a new garden is planned to provide yet another haven for pollinators while adding beauty for those entering the Park or walking on the pedestrian path.
Our involvement with the America in Bloom organization has launched a number of other amazing upgrades to our community and another kind of transformation. You will be noticing beautiful hanging baskets in our downtown this year. You won’t be seeing double, Ball has generously donated two baskets per lamp post to enhance the impact of flowers in our community. We now have beautiful landscaped beds around each of our six gateway signs thanks to the West Chicago Park District and Ball Horticultural Company’s collaborated efforts; we worked with volunteers from three service clubs for the past two years to plant downtown beds designed and sourced from WeGrow Dreams of West Chicago; and our West Chicago Garden Club has instituted a new scholarship program for West Chicago students pursuing a major in environmental fields of study.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. The Garden Club has also spearheaded a public art project with the Cultural Arts Commission which resulted in a total of 36 artist-designed butterflies that have alighted in public gardens throughout the community. The Butterfly Effect, as it is called, has encouraged engagement of the arts community with the garden community and local businesses, schools, and various other community partners. It is a project of endless creative possibility as each unique butterfly is sure to spark the imagination of all who view them from now through the end of October. I’d like to thank all those involved in bringing this public art project to the community.
Last year, we were recognized nationally by America in Bloom for our celebration of heritage through our ever-popular special events calendar.
Blooming Fest, Railroad Days, the Mexican Independence Day Festival, and Frosty Fest all deliver high quality elements that bring more and more people to our downtown and our Parks. Our events capture the spirit and pride of our community.
Last year, on the recommendation contained in the West Chicago Strategic Plan, staff was directed to form a committee for a new festival, which resulted in West Chicago’s first ever Food Festival. Considering its inaugural success last October, it hit the mark. There were pierogis, blissful brownies, tacos and Indonesian skewers of chicken, beef and lamb. There was wood-fired pizza and the most amazing Hot Mess of barbeque in a cup! And I sampled everything! This event will be back, on October 12th with food vendors already clamoring to participate.
And this year, West Chicago was chosen to be included in Union Pacific’s historic steam engine tour. The thrilling event happens in July and commemorates the transcontinental railroad’s 150th anniversary. This will be a rare opportunity to reconnect with West Chicago’s past as a railroad town, and also to the innovative and expanding story of Union Pacific and modern railroad operations that have united the nation since 1869. Take a look at the excitement in store for OUR community. (Show video)
I am so proud to live in West Chicago, and so privileged to be your Mayor. It’s no longer a secret that our community is rising to the top. Realtors and buyers are recognizing the value of our diverse housing stock, our great schools, thriving business community and reputation as a progressive, family-friendly place to live.
I look around at this place we call home and feel such a surge of emotion for what it means to be a part of its past, present and future.
Our journey as a community does resemble the continuous life cycle of a butterfly, hatching to its next stage, shedding its old skin, and changing into something new and marvelous, all while staying true to what it is at its core.
Earlier this year, ten incredible young people completed the City’s first eight-week Local Government Academy. The program was created as a result of the recommendation contained in the West Chicago Strategic Plan to connect all members of the community with civic engagement opportunities. These students decided to participate in the Academy to learn more about their community, City government, and how they could contribute. Their overall response to the challenges facing communities today was that people need to come together in order to improve the lives of others. This is such an inspiring message from our future leaders.
It’s an exciting time for West Chicago.
We need to continue to work together. Continue to take care of our precious City. Continue to look to the future and continue to work together as one.
One West Chicago.
May God continue to bless West Chicago with a community legacy that honors its past, seizes the present, and boldly visions the future. May God bless all of you and our great country, the United States of America.
Thank you, and Good Night.