First reported 7/22/2011 2 p.m.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday awarded the village of Riverside $502,663 in grants to complete a pair of “green” infrastructure projects – repaving a pair of alleys with a permeable surface and building a parking lot on a pair of vacant lots on the edge of the East Burlington Street Business District.

Riverside was one of 14 agencies awarded grants and the amount of the grants is among the top six given out by the IEPA, which awarded the grants to limit pollutants making their way to Illinois rivers and streams via sewer systems.

“This was a great example of a resident bringing something to the board’s attention, the board acting on it, and the staff putting it together in a short period of time,” said Village Manager Peter Scalera. “We’re fortunate we were one of the 14 projects approved.”

The grants must be accompanied by a 15-percent match by the village. If Riverside moves forward with both projects, it would have to chip in about $90,000.

Of the two projects, one involves repaving alleys that run from Kent to York roads on the northeast side of the village behind properties on Harlem Avenue. Both alleys are in very poor condition. The plan calls for the pavement to be excavated from the site and be replaced by permeable pavers.

Work on the alleys would likely not begin until spring 2012 at the earliest, said Scalera.

The second part of the grant award, to construct a green parking lot at 61-63 E. Burlington St., will take action by the village board if it’s to move ahead. A majority of the village board two years ago voted against a proposal to build a parking lot at that site.

However, the board agreed to apply for the grant to construct a green parking lot at the site last December after receiving news of the grant program. But trustees gave no indication that they had changed their minds regarding the use of the lot at that time.

The property is also zoned for residential use, so there would have to be board action to rezone the property to accommodate a parking lot.

“It’s up to the board now to decide if they want to move forward,” said Scalera, noting that the man responsible for letting local officials know about the grant opportunity was Tom Lupfer, a Riverside resident and member of the village’s Economic Development Commission.

Lupfer also owns a landscaping business and is dedicated to sustainable practices when it comes to landscaping. He was seeking a grant from the IEPA for a sustainable landscaping project at the Commonwealth in the Village real estate development in Western Springs.

“I realized this was a great opportunity for Riverside as well,” said Lupfer, who ended up winning a grant of $73,280 for his project.

“I’ve been looking for ways to get Riverside past its sustainable initiatives referendum,” said Lupfer. “These are no-brainers. You can mitigate a lot of the flooding problems in town through the landscape. It’s a great opportunity to showcase these technologies.”

Public Works Director Ed Bailey pulled together the materials for the grant application on short notice.

“I have a good feel for green infrastructure being part of the future,” said Bailey. “These kinds of projects can go a long way toward minimizing the surcharging of sewer systems. They can capture some of the water and slow its entry into the sewer system or prevent it altogether.”