The village of Riverside added another key piece to its reorganized community development department last month when Francisco Jimenez was hired as its first-ever village planner.
A native of southwest suburban Burbank, Jimenez comes to Riverside from a two-year stint as a project development analyst for the city of Indianapolis/Marion County.
Working for Construction and Business Services within the Department of Business and Neighborhood Services, Jimenez was responsible for reviewing and issuing permits, assisting residents with code interpretations and application procedures, investigating and resolving permit complaints and other duties.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in 2018 from Elmhurst College in history with a minor in urban studies. That brush with urban studies got Jimenez interested in planning, which led to the job in Indianapolis.
“It had everything I was interested in – history, planning – so I looked at Indianapolis as a good opportunity to get my foot in the door working with a municipality,” Jimenez said.
Seeking a position closer to his hometown, Jimenez searched for planning opportunities in the Chicago suburbs and applied for the Riverside job.
Riverside Assistant Village Manager Ashley Monroe, who oversees the community development department, said Jimenez stood out because of his experience in Indianapolis handling permits and code matters. His connection to the Chicago suburbs and interest in history also was a plus.
“His background in Indianapolis, specifically working in buildings and permitting, was very aligned with some of the responsibilities here,” Monroe said. Having a foundational understanding of those issue and being the one reviewing those plans was attractive.”
In his role as village planner, Jimenez will also serve as the staff liaison to the Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission and the Riverside Preservation Commission. He’ll also have a role to play in the ongoing effort to amend the village zoning code related to transit-oriented development in the downtown area and along Harlem Avenue.
That process was to have wrapped up this fall, but due to the staffing turnover in the community development department earlier this year, the Riverside Village Board voted last month to extend the grant-funded code revision effort until May 31, 2022.
“Hopefully with some additional clarity, we’ll continue to provide consistent and quality guidance for people who are looking to update their properties or tenant spaces in a way that encourages further commerce,” Monroe said of the goal of the code revision.
Other projects certain to intersect with Jimenez’s new role as planner include implementing the village’s new multifamily building rental registry; the ongoing Des Plaines River floodwall project, which is in its final design stage; and any planned unit development applications submitted to the village in the future.
Jimenez started in his new job on Aug. 2. His starting annual salary is $61,000.