Homewood hires consultant to help with development projects

Homewood officials have spent more than half a year laying the foundation for new redevelopment projects in the downtown area. On Tuesday, Aug. 23, one more piece was added to that foundation.

Trustees approved a budget amendment for $83,750 and authorized Village President Richard Hofeld to enter into a contract with SB Friedman Development Advisors to serve as financial consultants for transit-oriented and other development projects.

Village Economic Development Director Tom Vander Woude said the company specializes in assessing developer proposals and negotiating deals, providing financing expertise the village staff does not have.

Expertise is needed, he said, because the village is hoping to see several downtown mixed-use redevelopment proposals to come forward in coming months. 

Homewood also has two large projects that need funding — the conversion of the former Ryan’s Funeral Home into the Homewood Science Center and the renovation of the Homewood train station. 

“Our staff does an excellent job, but it’s good to see professionals to help get them over the hump and get things done,” said Trustee Larry Burnson.

Hofeld said the company would help the village use its resources well.

“Our main thrust is to protect our dollars and see that we make the best investment possible,” he said. “I think we’re on the right track.”

Fran Lefor Rood, SB Friedman senior project manager, was at the meeting to answer board members’ questions. Trustee Barbara Dawkins asked her about possible funding sources.

“We would be looking at creating special districts in the downtown area,” she said. For the train station rehabilitation, the company would help find outside sources of funding, including from federal programs. 

The renovation of the train station will be a public-private partnership. The village obtained a $585,000 grant to pay for an engineeering study that is being conducted now. Vander Woude said a preliminary estimate puts the renovation costs “in the $8 million range, but it could be somewhat higher than that.”

He said the village would help come up with funding to help match state or federal grants used to finance the station renovation.

The mixed-use development projects are part of a renewed effort to enact the village’s 2005 Downtown Master Plan. 

Efforts to move the plan forward started in December 2015 when the village began a search for a developer. After interviews with several firms, the village opted to work with Third Coast Developers.

“They’ve delivered concepts for three multistory, mixed-use buildings on three different sites with 145 residential units,” Vander Woude told the board. 

The village did a market study earlier this summer to assess whether the concepts were feasible. 

“That study came back positive,” he said. “It told us there is a market for about 250 residential dwelling units.”

By encouraging mixed-use developments, village officials hope to increase commercial opportunities and residential density in the downtown area. They hope more people living downtown will result in a more vibrant setting and a more robust local economy. 

In an interview with the Chronicle earlier this year, Vander Woude said the renewed effort was prompted by a sense that the economy is warming up. Recent investments in the community, from La Banque Hotel downtown to the Walmart and Menards projects on Halsted Street, are indications that momentum is building.

Village officials hope to build on that momentum, he said.

In the request for proposals that was posted in December, village officials highlighted five downtown properties they think have the best potential for redevelopment, including the village-owned lot where the former Savoia T’Go once stood.

Other candidates included the Triumph Building at Ridge Road and Martin Avenue, the Matrix Building at Ridge Road  and Harwood Avenue, the Sugar properties on Ridge Road just west of Dairy Queen, the former Bogarts Charhouse on Dixie Highway.

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