Des Plaines candidates disagree about what to do with Metropolitan Square
Des Plaines' aldermanic candidates are divided on whether public funds should be used to energize the Metropolitan Square development in the downtown area.
Some support a partnership with private businesses, while others don't want public money used at all.
One candidate thinks the city should buy the complex and then improve it.
Residents in four wards will choose representatives for the next four years in Tuesday's election. The candidates -- two in each ward -- discussed Metropolitan Square and other issues in questionnaires for the Daily Herald.
Set north of Miner Street, Metropolitan Square opened in 2006 and contains commercial and condominium buildings, a parking garage and a public plaza. Many storefronts are vacant, though, and it's never caught on as a gathering place.
Last year, a consultant proposed nearly $5 million in roadwork and streetscape improvements there -- but the council scuttled the plan.
Here's what the candidates think should be done.
Incumbent Martin J. "Colt" Moylan is being challenged by Earl Wilson in the 2nd Ward.
Moylan, who defeated Wilson in 2019, said improvements at Metropolitan Square should be funded privately and not with tax dollars.
Wilson also opposes spending public money on Metropolitan Square.
"Having a vibrant Metropolitan Square is important, but it should not be done at a cost to residents," he said.
Incumbent Artur Zadrozny is being challenged by former Alderman Dick Sayad in the 4th Ward.
Zadrozny was among the aldermen who last year opposed spending public funds to improve Metropolitan Square. City officials should work with the property owner to determine how to fill the vacancies there, he said.
"I believe the City Council would (be) open to spending public funds on helping revitalize Metropolitan Square, but it would need to have some guarantees from the owner," he said.
Sayad said officials should work with the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry to boost interest in Metropolitan Square. The nearby Des Plaines Theatre could help draw restaurants and other businesses to the square, he said.
Cash for a marketing plan could come from a special property tax fund and the state, Sayad said.
Former Alderman Mark Walsten and former Des Plaines School District 62 board member Brian Inzerello are facing off in the 6th Ward.
Inzerello said a public-private partnership could be the answer. He suggested tax incentives or a public land donation should be considered while private businesses make capital investments.
Walsten said he's open to a public-private partnership, but he prefers private funding for any projects.
Incumbent Shamoon Ebrahimi faces former Alderman Michael Charewicz in the 8th Ward.
Charewicz supports a balance of public and private investment. He pointed to the renovation of the city-owned Des Plaines Theatre as an example.
Rivers Casino contributed $2.2 million to help the city purchase and renovate the historic theater. The city bought the building in 2018 for about $1.3 million and then spent $6.7 million to renovate it, ahead of a 2021 reopening.
Ebrahimi's solution for Metropolitan Square was radically different from what the others suggested.
"I think the city of Des Plaines should buy it and get creative with improving it," he said.