Richton Park, Illinois
poised for continued growth
All signs point towards Richton Park for continued upward mobility
As a hub of transportation and warehousing activity, Chicago’s south suburbs are ideally suited for companies like Amazon and other distribution companies that serve the greater Chicago area. With quick access to the city by train, and connections to I-57, I-80, I-294, and I-355, travel through the region is efficient and easy, an advantage that is not taken for granted by the many commuters who travel these routes on a daily basis.
Within an hour by train to downtown Chicago, Richton Park is an ideal place for those who work in the city but prefer a more rural backdrop to call home. As a suburban community of 12,775, the village boasts a multitude of recreation opportunities, while fostering forward-thinking and innovative approaches to sustainability, and continuously enhancing opportunities to live, work and play.
Currently, Richton Park is pushing for a change from its status as a bedroom community, working to bring more economic opportunity, as Village Manager Regan Stockstell relays, “The way the community originated, it didn’t really plan for large-scale economic development activity, and yet today it’s almost a must in terms of sustainability. So, that’s our focus, to expand upon what is primarily a residential community, to become an economic hub for commercial and retail development, as well as provide amenities to the local community for social purposes, and at the same time be attractive as a destination.”
The village is home to a Walmart Supercenter, which has spurred national chains like Starbucks to open in the area. In partnership with development company Vequity, Richton Park is also welcoming a multi-tenant space that will be home to Midwest Express Clinic, bringing an urgent care facility to the community, as well as national restaurant chains, Epic Wings and Tropical Smoothie Café. Development is also planned for an area known as Richton Park Town Center, which is part of the effort to attract new opportunities to the village.
“The intersection of Sauk Trail and Governors Highway is sort of like the epicenter of our community,” explains Community & Economic Development Director, Pete Saunders. “There is also a Metra commuters rail line located near that intersection. We see it as a great opportunity to bring all sorts of development, whether it be residential, commercial, or mixed-use development in that area.” Town Center Pointe, a 5 story building geared toward seniors, is the first of what Saunders hopes are many new options for this part of the community.
As Richton Park anticipates the further development of the town center, Brandon Boys, Assistant Director of Community and Economic Development shares that the implementation of a planning process for this area is underway, with funding from the Regional Transit Authority. “Transit is not only a partner in that process, but they are also footing the bill for the plan through a grant. There will be a professional private consultant who will conduct that,” he shares.
“There’s a relatively blank canvas there from an urban form factor perspective because there’s not an established downtown through most of those properties.” As recipients of a Rebuild Downtown and Main Street Capital Grant, there are plans to extend a north/south roadway parallel to the main access point for the Metra station. “We will be extending that road south of Sauk Trail, with the future intent of wrapping it around to start creating a calmer side street that will be more walkable, have more of a downtown feel and really expand the footprint of our town center,” Boys adds.
Diversifying Richton Park’s housing stock is also on the agenda, as Saunders acknowledges, “Like a lot of suburban communities, we have a predominantly single-family home character. We’ve been that way for a number of years. One of the struggles is transitioning to a greater diversity of housing types within their communities, to bring in multifamily development, which we do have some, but also smaller units that might attract seniors, smaller units that might attract younger residents, transit-oriented development, so that people can make use of the commuter line that connects us with downtown Chicago. So, I think that a diversity of uses is what we’re really trying to seek out here. That senior’s building is just the first step in doing that.”
Other infrastructure activity in the community includes stormwater improvement efforts in the town center.
Stockstell maintains, “The more that we accomplish by completing that, the more land becomes developable. That’s really our number one project that we’re always seeking grant funds for.”
With help from ARPA funds, Richton Park was able to implement a road resurfacing project throughout an entire neighborhood on the south side of the village. This work will continue, as Richton Park looks to a comprehensive pavement study of all roads, strategically completing road work while prioritizing areas that are most in need. A community-supported water rate increase has also been introduced, in order to address the maintenance and upkeep of the current water system.
“We’ve got about a 12 to 18 month period here to actually set aside some revenues that will then begin to make improvements, either within our actual water treatment plants, which we have three, or through infrastructure in the ground with replacing storm sewers, and water mains and things of the like,” Stockstell reports.
RIchton Park, like virtually all of the south suburban communities in Cook County and neighboring Will County, support state-level discussions to bring a cargo airport to the region. While this would be the third airport in the south suburbs, feasibility studies have shown the benefits of this endeavor. Stockstell admits, “The south suburbs as a whole, as a unified group, continue to fight for bringing that forth. That would bring a tremendous number of jobs to the area, which I think would also spur growth in the form of housing and really put the south suburbs in a much stronger position for economic development.”
Richton Park is also collaborating with a coalition of communities to prepare for the future of electric vehicles, supporting residents through the introduction of infrastructure that will be required as these vehicles become more common. As a Sol Smart silver community, Stockstell says the village is taking the same approach to EVs as it did when introducing solar.
He recounts, “We dealt with bringing solar technology to our community for our residents, to educate them and make processes for them to obtain solar resources on their properties. Now we’re embarking on a similar effort as it relates to being EV-ready. Through the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, we are participating as the first cohort to achieve the same type of status, so that we will have the know-how, residents will have the access to the information they need to implement EV improvements on properties, and also the commercial and industrial environments.”
As part of the Mayors Caucus, Richton Park is also a Greenest Region Compact (GRC2) community and has made a pledge to sustainability. Part of this sustainability effort includes the stormwater work outlined in the master plans guiding development in the village. “We needed two stormwater master plans, one for east of town and the town center, and one west of town for future development, which focuses on a combination of industry, commercial and residential,” acknowledges Stockstell.
The South Suburban Mayors and Manager Council of Governments is a crucial relationship for Richton Park, as Stockstell admits, “A lot of our communities are relatively small, so we’re dependent on one another. That organization, which represents 42 communities, is of tremendous value.” He notes that partnerships with the local school districts, and Governor State University are also pivotal to the community.
On the commercial side, the Illinois Small Business Development Center is an important resource, offering federally funded business counseling. Richton Park is also looking forward to the opening of 4343 Ascending House, a business incubator and coworking space, an initiative through the Chicago Southland Development Corporation which is expected to bring new opportunities to the region.
Boys remarks that the village also relies on strong partnerships with utility providers such as ComEd, Comcast, and Nicor, while Stockstell says they would be remiss not to mention Cook County, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District whose roles in the continued success of the community are essential.
Looking to the future, Stockstell, Saunders, and Boys are all excited about the economic development opportunities that are coming for Richton Park. These include the plans for the town center, as well as a large portion of undeveloped farmland that is full of potential. “The board has made it clear that economic development is the priority,” Stockstell summarizes.
As a final thought, he says he hopes to see the completion of a public relations and marketing plan which he hopes will, “continue to extend our brand further, to make us more attractive, and try to bring in the types of things that we want, whether it be in the form of people, business, whatever it may be.”
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AT A GLANCE
Richton Park, Illinois
What: A South suburban community poised for economic growth and opportunity
Where: Cook County, Illinois
Governors State University – www.govst.edu
Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator and School of Extended Learning at Governors State University
Governors State University (GSU) is meeting the dynamic technical needs of the manufacturing workforce and innovations in expeditious supply chain operations.
As a key leader in regional efforts, GSU connects companies to the workforce of the future through collaboration with over 25 high schools. Annual events such as student meet and greets with employers, hiring and career fairs, plant tours, and drone and robotics competitions introduces hundreds of students to companies that offer careers in manufacturing and logistics.
GSU offers training programs to enhance incumbent workers’ skills. These programs range from Registered Apprenticeships to industry-recognized certification training in supply chain management, lean six sigma, and e-commerce.
Partnering with major logistics companies, GSU advances research that will improve logistics operations through the application of digital technologies. As a member of the state-wide Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), GSU also collaborates with other public universities on research projects that advance the innovation capabilities of the region.
For more information, contact the School of Extended Learning at ContinuingEd@govst.edu and 708.534.4099.
Prairie State College – www.prairiestate.edu
Prairie State College proudly serves Community College District 515 and is a hub of excellence, offering associate degrees, technical and career certificates, and workforce development and community education programs. The institution strives to provide opportunities for its students to start near, go far, and thrive.