Morton Grove Mayor Daniel DiMaria remembers how much taking the train through the north suburbs used to bother him.

“It made me sick, because as soon as you got north of Morton Grove, all the stations were nice,” he said. “We were like a sleepy little… just another stop along the way.”

DiMaria said he did not want Morton Grove to be another stop along the way.

2023 will bring significant construction work and the opening of some long-awaited projects in the village. DiMaria and Village Administrator Ralph Czerwinski told Pioneer Press this year would represent the result of several years’ worth of development work.

One of those projects is the new Metra train station, which Czerwinski said would be “in the ground” in the next 12 months.

The new station, for which the village board approved a contract with RM Swanson Architects in January 2022, will feature a kiss-n-ride and locations for outdoor restaurants across Lehigh Street.

DiMaria said his hope is that the new development will make commuters stop and go “wow, what’s this town about?”

He pointed to the village’s population increase over the last decade as an indication that suburbanites see what Morton Grove is about.

The village saw its population go up by about 8.7% between 2010 and 2020, U.S. Census numbers show. According to the Census, the village had 23,270 people in 2010 and 25,297 in 2020. The estimate for July 2021 dropped a little, however, to 24,712.

Besides the Metra station and two sets of new townhomes, Czerwinski and DiMaria are also looking ahead to the opening of a recreational cannabis dispensary and a Sephora cosmetics store at Sawmill Station, the revamped shopping center at the southeast corner of Waukegan Road and Dempster Street.

In contrast to nearby suburbs where the arrival of adult-use cannabis dispensaries has elicited intense debate and some pushback, Czerwinski said Morton Grove’s process had been straightforward.

“People understand that that’s the way the world is right now,” he said.

In fact, he continued, “it came in in Skokie and came in in Niles… and actually some residents came to us and said, why don’t we have one?”

Beyond new commercial additions to the village, DiMaria and Czerwinski told Pioneer Press they’re also anticipating two outdoor amenities opening in the next year.

There’s the community gathering space, Gateway Plaza, that they expect to open in mid-2023. Czerwinski said the plaza, located at Ferris and Lincoln Avenues, would feature a Wi-Fi hotspot, some exhibition of the village’s history and a wide range of native and cultivated greenery.

The Poehlmann Rose, a variety grown by a trio of brothers with a former greenhouse business, Poehlmann Brothers Co., in Morton Grove and which won a 1904 contest at the St. Louis World’s Fair, will be present in the garden, Czerwinski said.

“We’re going to bring that rose into this garden and also blend that with natural plantings,” he said. “And we’re going to have native plantings, and then probably some small sculpture or something.”

The village is also working with nearby Skokie and Niles to open a walking path down Oakton Street that will terminate at Niles West High School.

Asked what the most serious surprise of 2022 had been for him, DiMaria answered immediately: the Highland Park shooting on July 4th had not just been the biggest curveball of the year but also the biggest challenge.

“That was probably the toughest day that I’ve had being mayor,” he said. “We had to react quickly, get the word out. It was kudos to staff and the village board for getting out that reverse 911 call.”

Czerwinski said his goal for the village in the coming calendar year was to see Morton Grove “continue our financial stability, continue the economic growth.”

DiMaria said it would be an exciting year in the village.

“These are all things that we’ve planned out years ago,” he said. “And we’re getting them done, so I love it.”


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