Business district plan firm selected

Nathan Domenighini

The Business District Commission has selected a firm that will undertake the planning for business district improvements.

Members of the commission approached the Morton Village Board Monday night to recommend the firm for approval.

The Village Board agreed to pay $70,000 of funds allocated from business district sales tax revenue to Houseal Lavigne, a Chicago-based firm that develops community plans, including economic development and urban design.

Houseal Lavigne was one of 16 firms that submitted a proposal to the Business District Commission. Morton Economic Development Council CEO Jennifer Daly said it was the second lowest cost for a plan.

“Of the 16 firms we reviewed, Houseal Lavigne was not only our group’s unanimous favorite, but was also the second lowest in price,” said Daly.  “We believe this firm will provide an oustanding product at a very affordable price for our community.”

Mary Spahr, chairwoman of the Business District Commission, asked the Village Board to allocate $70,000 toward the plan to allow the commission to move forward on downtown and business district development.

Dan Gardner, principal associate with Houseal Lavigne outlined the firm’s relationship with the community and knowledge of Morton’s needs.

“This isn’t our plan, this is Morton’s plan,” Gardner said.

Gardner said the firm will reach out to the community for feedback and input on what residents would like to see. The firm will create an interactive project website for residents to use in offering feedback regarding the business district plan.

Progress updates and meeting updates will also be provided to those interested in keeping up with the project, Gardner said.

Trustees showed their support of developing a plan for the village’s business districts.

Village Board Trustee Stephen Newhouse displayed an old Witzig’s suit bag as an example of some of Morton’s more memorable and successful businesses that no longer exist.

“Morton is at kind of a turning point,” Newhouse said.

“We have to be active in investing in our community,” he added.

Gardner discussed Houseal Lavigne’s relationship with Hanson Engineering, which will oversee much of the village’s traffic flow.

“We definitely need their expertise,” Gardner said. “They’re a great partner to have.

Morton Mayor Norm Durflinger noted the firms willingness to consider areas outside of Morton’s downtown.

“I really appreciate your recognition that there’s more than just the downtown here,” Durflinger said.

He also said he likes the firm’s desire to communicate and work with the residents.

“We want this community to tell you what they think,” Durflinger said.

Other business:

In other business, Morton Village Board Trustees:

• approved an amended ordinance pertaining to the village’s clerk position. The village has been working to adjust ordinances to make them gender neutral. Words, such as “he,” “him” or “his,”   have been replaced with “the clerk.” This first arose when Treasurer Wendy Ferrell took over Bill Collingwood’s position. Gender neutral verbiage has been added to the responsibilities of the treasurer as well.