How active should Elk Grove Village be in redevelopment? Candidates weigh in
Candidates for Elk Grove Village board endorse the active role village government is taking when it comes to redevelopment, though one candidate wishes officials would be more transparent about it.
The village has essentially served as developer at the gateway corner of Arlington Heights and Higgins roads. It's where the village purchased the existing shopping center, former Elk Grove Bowl, bank, gas station and Rose Garden Cafe, and is now working with Mount Prospect-based Wingspan Development Group on plans for a new mixed-use development.
Among the business that would be affected is Jarosch Bakery, whose co-owner Kathy Jarosch is one of four candidates for village board. But Jarosch favors the approach Mayor Craig Johnson and the current board have taken so far.
Her business would be among those eventually relocated to new retail buildings constructed on site, according to Wingspan's plans.
"It's an embarrassment to be in a facility that's aging and a parking lot that is worn and decrepit," Jarosch said during a recent forum with the Daily Herald Editorial Board. "That corner at one time when the village was first conceived was a huge spot and it still is. People come in and out of our community traveling and working, and so it's a vital corner, and I'm so excited to see the village redeveloping. I'm so excited, too, that they respected the businesses that are there that are thriving."
She noted that the shopping center had spaces that sat vacant for years, despite efforts to fill them.
"So this (redevelopment project) totally supports what everyone's saying (that) the strip malls are dying," said Jarosch, who currently is an Elk Grove Village library board trustee.
Trustee Steve Schmidt, a four-year incumbent, said the village board has taken a more active approach to development "to make sure we get the right type of developments."
"If we did not step in and take a lead in that, we'd be looking at a used car lot or self storage facility right there," Schmidt said of the old bowling alley site. "That's not our vision of Elk Grove Village. So we have taken what I consider a very positive approach to our community. We want this community to thrive. We want our residents to be proud of it."
Trustee Tammy Miller, appointed by the mayor to fill a vacancy on the board in November 2021, said the board and village staff look to the master plan to actively identify areas in town that are vacant or in need of revitalization.
"We need to not be a tired community, but we need to be progressive and look ahead as a visionary," Miller said. "So we work very well with the staff to identify those areas in which we can -- if we need to -- purchase, then resell, to a developer to make those areas vital and economically sound. I think it's really important to make our village look fresh and ready to go to the future. We shouldn't just be status quo."
Monika Stajniak, the outreach program manager at social service organization Northwest Compass, said the village is doing a pretty good job filling vacancies. But she said she would like to see a little more transparency when it comes to decision making.
Stajniak proposed a small- or mid-sized grant program and workshops to assist those who want to move to town and fill vacancies. She also would like to see more help for small businesses.
"If we look into small businesses and you go into a restaurant and see that a whole family works there, and you talk to the owner, and you hear over and over again that they struggle to stay afloat -- we need to look into it as let's show them definitely more support," she said.
Three, four-year trustee seats are up for election on April 4.