Riversiders urged to attend planning workshop

? Public input will play a vital role in determining a development plan for the village's downtown.

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The steering committee for Riverside's Transit-Oriented Development Study will be holding its first community workshop on Thursday night, giving residents the opportunity to suggest their visions for the future of Riverside's downtown area.

According to Village Manager Kathleen Rush, the ideas generated in this workshop, which will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Riverside Township Hall, 27 Riverside Road, will provide the basis for the final TOD blueprint.

"This meeting is essential because it sets the table," Rush said. "It's going to set forward in broad perspective what the final project will be."

This final result of the study, Rush said, is meant to be a comprehensive plan for Riverside's downtown area, setting down goals and standards that will guide development in the business district for years to come.

At the meeting, representatives from URS-TPAP and Bauer Latoza Studio, the design and architecture firms working with the village on this project, will present the results of studies they have done of the village's downtown area. These studies included looking at Riverside's demographics, location, land use, transportation resources and other aspects of the business district. Rush said residents would have the opportunity to ask these representatives questions about the studies and their findings.

The main purpose of the meeting, however, will be to gather ideas for improvement from the residents themselves. To do this, Rush said, a good deal of the meeting has been set aside for the audience to break into groups of about six to eight people and talk about how the downtown could be improved. These brainstorming sessions will last about half an hour, and will be followed by a larger discussion of the ideas presented by each group.

Rush said the workshop will give residents the opportunity to play a central role in the creation of the final project.

"They'll be able to participate in creating the vision for the central plan," she said. "This is essential in completing the central study; it's ultimately what the commission will be refining and presenting to the village board."

To facilitate this discussion, Rush is hoping for a large turnout on Thursday night, of at least 45 to 50 people.

"If we can get that, we'd be really happy," she said.

From the suggestions made on Thursday, the commission will create scenarios for a redesigned downtown area, which will then be presented at a second community workshop planned for July 16. After that, the commission will continue refining the proposal based on community input from the second workshop. Rush said a final version to the village board before the end of the year.

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