Mayor Steven Streit, City of Lockport

Many thanks to the citizens of Lockport for the opportunity to serve as the mayor of our great city these last four years. There are a number of projects that council, staff, citizen volunteers, and I have worked on together these past four years; the kick-starting of the Lockport Square Retail Center, a revitalized Downtown, major fixes to our infrastructure, and a safe and enjoyable community that provides both jobs and recreation for all who live here.

All of these objectives are in the works but, there is much left to do. For instance, we are only half-way through our $48 million dollar Capital Improvement Plan, the Lockport Square Retail Center is out of foreclosure and building (Panera and Holiday Inn Express are the latest to sign contracts) but the big leases in the back are still at the Letter of Intent (LOI) stage. Our business parks, containing a mix of corporate headquarters, distribution, and light manufacturing, have grown tremendously in the last four years but still need leadership dedicated to filling them with quality users and oversight to ensure that they integrate into our community with minimal impact.

As the job is not done, I am seeking your support for re-election on April 4th to see these project through.

Below are a number of project updates that people most frquently inquire about. You are invited to email me anytime with your questions and concerns on these or any topic.

  • Lockport Square Retail Center
  • Historic Downtown
  • City Infrastructure
  • Business Parks
  • Housing
  • Government & City Council
  •  

    Lockport Square is Building Out!
    Upon taking office in 2013, Lockport Square had been in foreclosure since the start of the 2008 recession. By late 2014, the bank and city were able to come to an accord with a buyer for the property. By 2015, the first outlot building was under construction. The tricky part in seeing the plaza built, though, was a hesitancy by retailers and restaurants to commit to a green site in a city with flat housing starts and low weekday population numbers. The Council and I were able to turn housing starts around by lowering our home building tap-on fees. (At the time, it cost about $12k more to build a house in Lockport than in the neighboring communities). This move brought housing starts back to Lockport.

    Panera Bread

    Lockport Square Retail Center

    Holiday Inn Express

    As of March 2017, Lockport Square has leased space to Mattress Firm, Sports Clips, and AT&T and contracts with Panera Bread and Holiday Inn Express have been signed.

    In addition, there are three LOI's (Letters of Intent) from a theater, clothing retailer, and another restaurant. An LOI is when a potential leasee gives written intent to build and it allows for a due diligence review.

     

    Historic Downtown Lockport
    The Volz Building/Embers Tap House

    There are no magic fixes when it comes to turning an old downtown around. Lockport's State Street had unique challenges. Poor infrastructure (inadequate fire mains and collapsing vaults under the sidewalks) were two major hurdles to overcome.

    There was also the Volz Building. Gutted by a fire in 2008, one of the largest buildings in our historic district sat as a colossal eyesore. The property owner could not get a loan to fix the building as the bank deemed the building worthless. The city took steps to purchase the building and find a user with the personal capital to rehab the building for a use that would benefit the State Street business district and community. The results of those efforts are Embers Tap House. This effort by the city has primed the pump on development for downtown.

    Embers Tap House

    New Construction
    Today, there are two new buildings (the first in the historic district in over 50 years) that will soon be built. Demolition at State and 8th is currently underway for the first. These private investments would not be happening if the old Volz build was still standing windowless and neglected.

    Gallas Building Lockport

    1122 South State Street. Passed the Heritage and Architecture review board on February 21

    Dunkin Donuts 2017

    This three unit building will be constructed on the old Pete's Hot Dog site (Phil, the owner retired and put the land up for sale).

    State Street Reconstruction

    Another major development came about when IDOT informed me that they were going to get rid of our on-street parking between 8th and 10th along State Street to accommodate a left turn lane. While the left turn lane would greatly improve traffic safety, it didn’t do much to increase pedestrian safety as it would make State Street more of a thoroughfare and less the pedestrian friendly downtown we have all sought for so many years.

    In response, I had staff submit an alternative plan to IDOT. Our plan showed that a turn lane could be accomodated by reducing the widths of the sidewalks and lanes by a foot each. In this way, our downtown business district would not lose its on-street parking. We also requested sidewalk bump-outs and bolder pedestrian crosswalks. In the end, IDOT agreed to our requests and went even further by agreeing to fill the collapsing vaults under the sidewalks (which happened to be in their right-of-way). Knowing that the sidewalks were to be torn out, I reformed the Downtown Development Committee to blow the dust off of our State Street Master plans. This would be the time to implement some of the beautification measures citizens have longed to implement in our downtown. The Council approved $1.6 million to implement these safety and beautification measures – a fraction of the cost if we were doing the entire project ourselves.

    Further taking advantage of the situation, we will also be updating the inadequate fire mains that service the State Street Buildings. One of the reasons our downtown has suffered so many fires is because of the inadequate water supply. That will now be fixed as we take advantage of the IDOT tearout and we update the water mains. Prep work has already begun on the project and IDOT bid letting goes out this summer. The heavy work begins in 2018.



    Part of the State Street reconstruction plans

    Railway Quiet Zones

    All of the quaint and historic downtowns in Chicagoland that have a rail line passing through them (Downers Grove, Wheaton, Geneva, etc.) have Railway Quiet Zones. Such a zone has long been part of the Downtown Master Plan but the cost has made implementation prohibitive. Why are Quiet Zones important for a vibrant downtown? For one, they make spending time in the Downtown and along the I&M Canal path far more enjoyable. Anyone who has had to stop their conversation and cover their ears when the Amtrak blares past understands this.

    Railway Quiet Zone A privately funded Rail Quiet Zone will be coming to Lockport within the next two years
    Quiet Zones increase the opportunities for outdoor dining such as we have at the Public Landing. Also, Quiet Zones allow for higher rents in apartments, retail, and downtown office space. No one wants to spend $1,200 a month for an apartment that has a train horn keeping them up all night. Higher rents allow for building owners to put more money into their buildings and the net effect is positive. Also, there are many homes on the West Side that are between the rail lines that find the trains increasingly oppressive. The rail traffic has increased exponentially over the last few years with the Joliet Intermodal coming on line.

    Back to the cost - $2.5 million. The reason a quiet zone is so expensive is that 1.) We have two rail lines in the Downtown – The Burlington Northern and Canadian National to mitigate 2.) We have a high number of grade crossings and everyone single one must be mitigated with expensive gate-arms and other equipment to reduce the possibilty of people driving around them.

    An opportunity arose to fund the QZ when Duceer Oil wanted to run a pipeline from the Shell Tank farm to the other side of the Sanitary and Shipping Canal. They needed an easement from the city in order to reach their destination. The city was able to negotiate the $2.5 million from Duceer in order to pay for the Quiet Zone. As such, the construction of the QZ will be funded without tax payer money.

    In the end, negotiating hard for the $2.5 million for an easement that was market valued at 1/10th that number was an effort to further realize our city's Master Plan for a revitalized Downtown and better living conditions on the West Side.

     

    In 2013 I directed staff to layout all of our current infrastructure projects onto a timeline for completion that fell within our current revenues. This effort became our Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) which was voted in by the council in 2014. It was a blueprint that encompassed, watermains, roads, bridges, and wells. Projects were prioritized based on the findings of two independent engineering firms who rated problems from critical to bad. The estimated cost was to be $48 million dollars with a completion time of four years. To date, we have moved through the CIP having spent over $26 million.

    Lockport Road Repairs nad Reconstructions

    As expected, the CIP is not perfectly on schedule. In a city as old as Lockport, every time you open a road up for reconstruction or pull off the lid on something, you find surprises that end up adding costs and slowing progress. An example of this happened last year when we went to install a new iron filtration system on Well 14. The well shaft was found to be in such poor condition that an entirely new shaft had to be dug. That delayed the Filtration System installation until this year.

    Watermains
    Watermain replacement throughout the city
    Well Pump
    1 newly dug well, 2 rehabbed wells

    Council, Staff, and I will continue moving forward aggressively making capital investments into Lockport. It really is a job that never ends though, for as soon as you get done, it starts all over again. Planning for this, we will allot new growth revenues to capital fixes. While new growth adds more burden, the net gain we are receiving from new buildings in commercial and retail, along with new sales tax, are a net gain and will allow us to establish long term viability to Lockport's infrastructure.

    You can view the CIP here to see what projects are forth coming in 2017 and beyond.

     

    Government and City Council

    I am very proud and honored to work with a City Council comprised of community members with a varied skill set and who have the best interests of the community in mind. Even though we may disagree on matters from time to time, we are able to do so with respect and find ways to move forward together. Anyone watching the circuses in Springfield and in Washington know how debilitating contentious government is to our communities (and sanity). I also want to thank the Lockport Prayer Warriors who meet monthly to pray for respect and unity of vision within our community.

    Lockport City Council
    Council members are Joanne Bartelson, Darren Deskin, Robert Perreta, Jason VanderMeer, Brian Smith, Kris Capadona, J.R. Gillogly, and Jim Petrakos (not shown)
    City of Lockport Financials
    • AA+ rating by Standard & Poor's
    • 6th year for GFOA Excellence Award
    • Distinguished Budget Award
    • Online Bill Presentment
    • Currently conducting Special Census for higher "per capita" State revenue
    • Overall city property tax down
    City Budget
    A Community Police Dept.

    Lockport Police Department
    • Restructured the Department in 2014
    • Expanded Volunteer Chaplain Program to assist both Officers & Citizens
    • Strated the Lockport Love Charitable Group to help local families in need
    • NIXLE.com Citizen Alerts
      (signup at Nixle.com)
    • Created Safe Passage Addiction Recovery Program

    Creating a community Police Department that works for all of Lockport has been an important goal of mine. The restructuring of the Department early on and the encouragement of programs that embrace citizens such as Lockport Love and our expanded chaplain corps have gone a long way in seeing Lockport rated as one of the safest cities in Illinois and America.

    Safe City Awards

    A Support The Blue march for the Lockport PD organized by the Tucker family Lockport Police Department

     

    Business Parks
    During the 19th Century, the commerce and industrial district was between State Street and the I&M Canal. The Gaylord and Norton buildings, as well as the other structures that once lined the canal, were warehouses and manufacturing businesses. Downtown Lockport was the original distribution center for the region.

    Today, that center of gravity has moved east where there is easy access to I-355.

    Original Lockport Business District Lockport's former warehousing and industrial district

    Lockport Businesses added since 2013
    Lokport Manufacturing Businesses
    All of these businesses add jobs to our city along with millions of dollars in property tax revenue to our schools, fire departments, and city government. Taxes from these new businesses offset our home property tax bills even while increasing revenues that are used to fix our aging infrastructure.

    Lockport Zoning Mix

    Land use percentages in Lockport when all zoned lands are fully built out.

    Lockport Congestion in the early daysEarly Lockport logistical problems at 9th and State

    A crucial element to growth, however, is balance. The zoning graph here shows that even with the unprecedented growth we have experienced in the last four years, industrial/office only makes up 24% of Lockport lands. That chart includes the Chevron property (220 acres) and the Prologis development when fully built-out.

    There, of course, will be challenges to manage with such growth. This is nothing new. When State Street was the center of industry and logistics, cattle, lumber, grains, and a multitude of other goods frequently clogged the streets.

    Today, truck traffic and automoblile congestion are the challenges. Keeping as much truck traffic on I-355 as possible is the primary goal. The Lockport police Department, in conjunction with the State Police, are working on a plan that encourages overweight trucks to stay off of 171 and interior roads with temporary scale stops. By no means are we looking to penalize truckers, who make up a vital part of our society, but we are seeking to keep them on the roads that are currently built to the highest standards for logistics.

    truck scales

     

    Housing
    One of the impediments we faced to bringing development to our retail plaza at I-355 was the fact that our housing starts were flat upon taking office. The major reason Lockport housing was still flat after the recession was that the city’s tap-on fees were almost $12,000 more per unit then in neighboring communities. Council and I lowered tap-on fees to make Lockport more competitive with the cities around us. As anticipated, housing starts are back up.

    Sagebrook and Creekside II, both subdivisions that stalled in 2008, are now developing and performing even better than expected. Other infill homes throughout the city are being built as well.

    Highlands of Lockport
    Highlands elevation

    Sagebrook Homes Lockport
    Sagebrook homes

    Fox Hollow, the subdivision behind Crosspoint Church, east of Briggs, has recently been purchased from the bank by a developer. The Highlands, a Class 1 apartment complex with pool, clubhouse, and concierge services, was approved two years ago and is slated to break ground this year. This development, at 143rd and I-355 also has commercial lots and a hotel/office pad.

    Highlands of Lockport Site Plan
    Highlands of Lockport site plan

     

    A copy of our report filed with the State Board of Elections is (or will be) available on the Board's official website (www.elections.il.gov) or for purchase from the State Board of Elections, Springfield, Illinois.

    ©Copyright 2017. Content on this website is copyrighted and may not be used or reproduced without the written consent of the Steven Streit For Lockport Committee.