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University Park transit-oriented development plan reimagines Metra Electric terminus station area

May 1, 2023

University Park TOD plan blog header

The recently adopted Village of University Park Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Plan envisions a next generation Metra Electric station area that fosters growth, guides the development of new housing opportunities for existing residents, creates a place for the community to gather, and leverages jobs and transit investments to build a vibrant TOD district in this south suburban community located in both Will and Cook counties.

The University Park TOD Plan was adopted by the Board of Trustees in February 2023 and was completed with support from the RTA Community Planning program, which offers technical assistance and funding to local governments to address local planning needs where public transportation and land use intersect. As an immediate step toward implementation, University Park will continue to work with the RTA to identify a financial strategy to make the recommendations of the TOD plan a reality.

The plan builds off the Village’s 2002 TOD Plan and the 2014 Comprehensive Plan, and it provides a unique opportunity to support economic development that will positively transform the half-mile area surrounding the University Park Metra Station, and specifically the 77 acres of vacant land on the east side of station into sustainable TOD. A cohesive district is designed with complimentary land uses including a variety of residential, mixed-use, and commercial buildings with an interconnected open space network. The street network is planned to support automobiles, transit, bikes, and pedestrians with connections to the nearby Governors State University, Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve, Gateway Industrial Park, and University Park Town Center.

Residential market recommendations include an initial phase of up to 200 multifamily rental units and some ground floor commercial that services the tenants. Subsequent phases could incorporate single-family attached housing, such as townhouses or condos, on the north end of the TOD area. Commercial market recommendations include an initial phase of up to 10,000 square feet of free-standing retail on the north side of University Parkway, with attractive design, pedestrian access, and adequate vehicular parking and access (for example, coffee shops, cafes, and fast-casual eating places). Subsequent phases could incorporate ground floor commercial space in mixed-use buildings with residential above. New commercial space would be limited and would not likely exceed 10,000 square feet (for example, a fitness center, hair salon, medical office, pharmacy, etc.).

The plan also includes a connectivity analysis that discusses existing travel patterns and opportunities. It offers recommendations to promote transit use with improved connections to the Metra station; promote safety and walkability with pedestrian-friendly development and sustainable design standards; support expanded bicycle infrastructure; and provide enhanced street and intersection design.

These recommendations came out of multiple community meetings, surveys, and other engagement opportunities that gave University Park residents a chance to weigh in on what they’d like to see for this area of their community.

About University Park

The Village of University Park is located in the northeastern part of Will County, with a small portion in Cook County. The Village offers a healthy environment in which to live, which can be attributed to its natural open space, close-knit community, and educational facilities.

The geographic location of University Park is key to its economic growth and success. The village is well served by highways and transit connections across the south suburbs and is 50 miles from O’Hare Airport, 40 miles from Downtown Chicago, and 30 miles from Midway Airport.

The location of the Metra Station adjacent to the Industrial Park and Governors State University is beneficial for people commuting to and from work and the University. The opening of the I-57 / Stuenkel Road Interchange in 2015 created direct access to Chicagoland from the Gateway Industrial Park, which is located in Will County and offers lower tax rates compared to neighboring Cook County. As a result, Gateway Industrial Park has attracted growing companies like Amazon and Carvana who are building large distribution facilities and transforming the Industrial Park into a regional distribution and transportation hub.

This economic growth has also attracted retail and commercial developments along Stuenkel Road to provide services to businesses and their employees. The Village’s projected population growth is attributed to the significant numbers of new jobs that are being created in Industrial Park and the anticipated housing demand. To accommodate employer growth, student growth at Governors State University, and rising housing needs, the Village is actively seeking workforce housing, retail, and commercial development to meet current and future demand.

University Park Metra Station is served by the Metra Electric commuter rail service. It is the terminus station on this line and therefore attracts a wider reach of commuters from points further south than a typical rail station. The station is also served by Pace Bus 367, which connects Metra, GSU, Town Center, Orchard Park Plaza and downtown Park Forest. Potential exists to increase multimodal access to the station as well as ridership with support of this TOD Plan.

Read more in the Village of University Park TOD Plan.

All completed projects from the RTA Community Planning program can be found on RTAMS, the Regional Transportation Authority Mapping and Statistics website.

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Tagged in: TOD | Metra | RTA | Community Planning | RTAMS

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