West Broadway Street

 Traffic passes on West Broadway Street in Bradley on Wednesday morning. The future of the area — and others, including the Northfield Square mall — is addressed in the village’s six-section, 83-page redevelopment plan. READ MORE

BRADLEY — The six-section, 83-page redevelopment plan for key sections of Bradley — most notably Northfield Square mall and West Broadway Street — is set for approval in the next several days.

The document, produced by planning and development consultants S.B. Friedman and Ginkgo Planning + Design, will first go before the Bradley Planning & Zoning Commission at 6:30 p.m. April 7 and will go to a public hearing at the April 12 Bradley Village Board meeting.

“This is just the first step, but a critical first step,” said Pamela Hirth, Bradley’s assistant community development director. “This is a compelling and realistic vision as to how to redevelop this area.”

Basically, the goal of the plan is to set a blueprint as to how development can move forward and what types of development are sought and suited for these key commercial and retail areas in Bradley.

Not unlike communities throughout the United States, Bradley has experienced a shift in retail and commercial development and it has greatly impacted the mall — once the undisputed retail hub of Kankakee County — and the Broadway business district.

The Broadway district was long ago the village’s Main Street. Changing times and consumer behavior have relegated it to something far less than a sought-after business location.

‘JUST THE START’

Bradley has already put its money where its mouth is. Not only did the village board hire these consultants, but they also purchased the former Carson’s men’s store — one of the former mall anchors — at a cost of $1.1 million to help aid in development. The village is currently working with a potential developer who is studying the location’s use as a conference center/banquet facility.

“It helps us to have a goal,” Hirth added, before noting these are strategies which will likely take many years to fully realize.

“This is just the start. But the key point is for the community to make sure the village stays committed to this,” she said. She also noted the village administration also wants the community to stay involved as well.

“We will put this before the public. We want the public to stay engaged.”

TWO-PRONG FOCUS

The plan’s two-prong focus is the approximate 53-acre Northfield property, which is basically in the heart of the village’s retail district along Illinois 50. The second focus is West Broadway, chiefly between Schuyler Avenue and Kennedy Drive.

The focus is to reinvigorate the mall by bringing new uses to the complex and eliminating portions of the actual mall, opening it up to community uses as well as well as potential living areas.

However, before any of those steps are taken, funding for such ambitious plans must be identified as they take shape.

FUNDING OPTIONS SOUGHT

Friedman and Ginkgo representatives said the village could consider an “economic development toolkit” which could include establishing Tax Increment Financing districts to help fund these projects for developers. The consultants also say the village should consider establishing business districts — which can establish inclusive taxing district. Those funds can then be used for development.

An example of such a taxing district would be downtown Kankakee’s business district which imposes a tax on itself to aid improvement for business owners.

The consultants also pointed to creation of taxing districts such as special service areas, enterprise zones, hotel/motel taxes, historical preservation tax incentives and seeking philanthropic donations as well as government grants.

Money and plenty of it will most certainly be needed. Bradley Mayor Pro Tem Mike Watson is well aware of that fact.

“This is an essential step. This commercial corridor has had 15 years of neglect. This area helps [the village] pay our bills, our employees. We have reinvest so this area stays viable,” he said.

Watson said he is looking far into the future with these plans.

“This is about future [village] boards being able to function financially,” he said. “We have to invest here. We are looking to upgrade our community.”

Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at lprovost@daily-journal.com.