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As the population of Chicago continues to grow, people are seeking more suburban areas in which to raise their children and maintain a more rural lifestyle. To accommodate this outward surge, transportation systems are expanding to allow ease of commute, and suburban areas are becoming even more desirable.

But although people want a more rural environment, complete with the peace and quiet such a place provides, they also want the convenience of good shopping opportunities nearby. It’s a delicate balance, and that balance is the goal of the Homer Glen Comprehensive Plan.

George Muersch, Jr. of Will-Cook Ace Hardware, one of the Village’s long-standing businesses, recalls a time nearly 30 years ago. “We were one of the charter stores out here. There were only three or four businesses in Homer Glen. It was primarily horse farms and a farming community 29 years ago. [Homer Glen] has grown into an urban-type community.”

Today, the Village of Homer Glen is eyeing a future design to fit the “town center” plan, which will include a major retail center as well as a Village green and such amenities as a park and band shell, with municipal offices, community meeting spaces and a library centrally located.

Much of the commercial development traditionally encouraged within the community has been the types of services regularly used by local residents, contributing to the small-town feel. That type of mix is indicated in the small business park at the junction of 159th Street and Annico Drive, which is home to such businesses as landscaping services and auto repair.

Although intensive, large-scale commercial development does not fit well into this bucolic plan, the fact is that larger commercial development will become a major factor in the economic well-being of the Homer Glen area. Several main arteries pass through the area, including the new I-355 spur, and such areas foretell future large-scale business and retail development. The trick will be maintaining the rural atmosphere for residents, while providing commercial-friendly areas that will bring in development—and tax money.

To make a happy medium, the plan states a goal of “encouraging the development of compatible new business, light industrial and office/research development at selected locations along and near the I-355 corridor.” That includes future business parks near I-355, with upscale offices and research facilities as well as light industrial development. The goal is to boost the Village tax base and provide jobs while still maintaining the charming, quiet character of the Village.

Commercial areas are currently located near the major intersections of Bell Road and 143rd and 159th Streets, and along the I-355 corridor. For example, the entire 20.3-acre parcel at 143rd Street and Bell Road is designated as commercial space. A Home Depot is currently located there, and plans are in the works for a Meijer grocery complete with an outdoor seasonal sales area and drive-up pharmacy window.

The plans for 159th Street development include mixed-use, combining some residential areas as well as commercial development, a mix which should keep the area from becoming too congested. Another major corridor is along 159th Street and Randall Road, with 14 separate projects currently under review. The location is attractive to businesses because of its proximity to I-355, as well as offering a low sales tax rate to attract new businesses.

Hopes are high that controlled commercial development will benefit the area in several ways, including providing tax relief, local employment opportunities and services that will benefit Homer Glen residents.

While Village Administrators hope to retain a small-town feel by encouraging smaller commercial ventures such as neighborhood stores and smaller shopping centers, common sense dictates that with the addition of the I-355 corridor, major developers will eventually see the area as desirable. And as the population increases, there will be further demand for appropriate retail development. With those two issues in mind, the plan is designed to work with such developers to retain the rural character of the area, making the most of that charm, while providing the most in services to residents.

What’s The Plan?

The Homer Glen Comprehensive Plan targets several main areas for development, giving specifics as to future development. In such planning, administrators must take into consideration a variety of factors, including how the development will fit into the environment, the traffic patterns and the Village infrastructure. Although intense development has not yet become a problem in Homer Glen, planners are getting ready, targeting specific areas for businesses and preparing requirements for the best possible fit.

The area along Bell Road is seen as a mixed-use area, with office buildings encouraged to visually break up strips of retail and service development while providing landscaping and green spaces more in harmony with neighboring residential areas. The largest commercial concentrations will be located at the road’s intersections with 143rd and 159th Streets. Bell Road could also see larger commercial shopping centers in the future, although such centers will have to comply with the restrictions of the plan.

Aside from its intersection with Bell Road, 143rd Street is planned to keep a low commercial profile, with main businesses being small, neighborhood-type establishments in keeping with the adjacent residential areas.

In addition, the plan foresees 159th Street becoming the main mixed-use business corridor. However, in keeping with the goal of retaining a more open feel, lot depths will be required to be approximately 600 feet, allowing for landscaping and creative building groupings, while avoiding the commercial gridlock of city business streets.

Finally, as the population grows, it is not inconceivable to see growth in multiple-family housing. Village planners hope to use this type of housing as a buffer, or “transition” area between business and single-family residential areas.

It is hoped that the foresight presented in this plan will allow Homer Glen to continue its growth in a manageable way, retaining the high-end, rural atmosphere that makes it a desirable place to live.

Ace Hardware

Ace Hardware

For complete home and garden improvement needs, visit Will-Cook Ace Hardware, a Homer Glen fixture since 1979. The store was founded by George and Robin Muersch and is a family-owned business; three generations of the Muersch family now work in the store. The store opened in a relatively small, 2,800-square-foot facility. According to George Muersch Jr., son of the store’s founders and the current manager, Will-Cook Ace Hardware was one of the founding businesses in Homer Glen. The store now boasts 25,000 square feet of space.

“Our product mix has evolved with the community as well,” says George Muersch Jr. “We used to have an actual hitching post in front of the store and people used to ride up and tie their horses to it. We used to carry things like feed buckets; now we’re more mainstream.”

Will-Cook Ace Hardware is one of the area’s largest Weber grill dealers; at any time, you can find up to 50 Weber grills in the store. It’s also a great place to go for holiday décor. Need pipe cut? The store is happy to help. It also rents tools, in case you’re working on a project that requires specialty equipment.

As one of Homer Glen’s oldest businesses, Will-Cook Ace Hardware is dedicated to giving back to the community that has supported it for so many years. It sponsors local baseball and football teams as well as the Homer Athletic Club since 1979.

Will-Cook Ace Hardware is also committed to incorporating eco-friendly business practices in its daily operations. In addition to supporting the community’s Earth Day event in April, the store carries a host of eco-friendly products and participates in a recycling program that includes the recycling of cell phones, rechargeable batteries and CFL bulbs in order to keep the mercury from infesting the landfills. Latex paint is also recyclable through Will-Cook Ace Hardware, making it is the only business around that does so.

“People shop in our store because they know they’ll get personal, friendly service. You won’t walk in without being helped,” says Muersch. “We’ve witnessed first-hand the changes in Homer Glen over the years, from the old farmhouses to the $2 million homes. We’ve grown with the community.”

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