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Mayor: Downers Grove's balance of preservation, progress good for future

Downers Grove Mayor Martin Tully recently said 2016 was a year the village not only made progress but also preserved history.

During his annual report, Tully said maintaining this balance is crucial.

“The community and the council weren’t satisfied with the preservation efforts that were taking place,” he said. “[I] heard from the community and others who were involved; some of the barriers and some of challenges that were presenting to those who had a desire to voluntarily landmark their homes. Of course, Downers Grove being founded in 1832 has a very proud and rich history and many, many historic places, people and things to celebrate.”

Village board action on Dec. 15, 2015 created a new, revised historic preservation ordinance.

Tully explained that one of the village’s objectives of this revision was not just to change the ordinance to make it easier and more convenient for people to landmark historic homes, but also to increase public awareness and celebrate the various historic people, places and things in our community.

Tully gave credit to all the civic leaders and members of the public for coming together to bring change.

“The results were extraordinary, and the impact was almost immediately felt,” he said. “In the span of just one year, we had nine buildings historically preserved and landmarked in our community. The Ehr House, the Melchor Gjerde House, the Herring House, Alexander and Nancy Foster House, our own Main Street Train Station, the Foote House… the Krueger House, the Cole House and the Venard House, all those historic places and buildings were landmarked in one year as compared to just two in a number of years.”

Tully said another area of honorable mention is the progression of the village’s economic development efforts.

“We work very hard to make sure that we’re always in the best position to capitalize upon these opportunities when they present themselves and sometimes even work really hard to create opportunities when we can,” Tully said.

In 2016, Downers Grove attracted businesses such as Chipotle, Packey Webb Ford, Alter Brewing Company, Duluth Trading Company and Glanbia Performance Nutrition.

“Our motto is to preserve the balance between tradition and progress,” Tully said. “We had a great year in 2016 for preserving tradition. We also had a pretty good in year in making progress, and progress includes reinvesting in our community because entropy is not a good concept. If you don’t keep putting effort into keeping things or improving them, they will fall into disarray and that is not something that we want to allow in Downers Grove.”

To this, village officials intend to continually reinvest in the community.

“In order to maintain a vibrant community and a vibrant downtown, one must not only preserve what is unique about it, but also reinvest in the new in order to stay relevant and to stay ahead of the curve,” Tully said.

Last year saw the beginning of a number of downtown development projects, including Marquee on Maple, Burlington Station and Main & Maple.

“All of these projects will benefit the downtown TIF [District], help to pay back some of the debt that was taken out to undertake that massive infrastructure project from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s and also bring more people into the downtown to help support the restaurants, shops and other activity in our downtown to help keep it vibrant not only today but for many, many years in the future,” Tully said.

Tully said as officials examined long-range plans for the village, it shouldn’t go unnoted the length at which they sought to adhere to five main strategic goals, which guide theirs actions for the period from 2015 to 2017 and beyond.

This includes efforts to be good stewards of financial, environmental and neighborhood sustainability, provide exceptional municipal services, provide and maintain top quality infrastructure, provide a strong and diverse local economy and continually innovate.

Tully gave credit to village leadership for what they do for Downers Grove.

“Our best role is to identify top quality people, give them good direction, give them reasonable means by which to implement that direction and mostly, to stay out of their way and let them do their jobs—of course, holding them accountable at the end,” he said. “I think our staff here does a pretty darn good job of that both historically and currently, we have every expectation that we’ll continue to do that in the future.”

“We are well positioned for the future,” Tully said.

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