- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

HOMEWOOD, Ill. (AP) - Commuter rail stations are playing a prominent role in economic development in suburban Chicago and northwest Indiana.

In Homewood, Illinois, entrepreneur Claude Gendreau is turning a former bank building into a boutique hotel near the Metra and Amtrak station, with costs topping $5 million.

And the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which runs the South Shore Line, is pulling funds together for a $1.2 billion improvement and expansion program that includes neighborhood development around stations.

Michael Noland, general manager of the transportation district, told The Times of Munster (https://bit.ly/1D7fPWz ) that communities in northwest Indiana should look to how development has happened around train stations in places like Homewood.

“There are things they thought would be slam dunks that didn’t work and other things that looked difficult but did work,” Noland said.

Yonah Freemark, a manager at Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council, said transit-oriented development can be difficult in traditional downtown areas. But he said it can be done with careful planning and incentives.

“Homewood is just a great example of all this, because it has a stable downtown compared to many other municipalities,” Freemark said.

Homewood has helped businesses opening near the train station defray costs by providing funds from a special taxing district. The new hotel got $900,000 from the village, while nearby Grape & Grain Co. got $42,000 for a $1 million expansion, according to owner Ron Khalaf.

Gendreau said people visiting in Chicago during the day might like the quieter setting at his Homewood hotel at night. It’s scheduled to open June 6.

“As far as the hotel goes, I think the train station will be very important,” Gendreau said. “It will be a huge asset for the hotel to have that train station there.”

Orland Park has also seen development around its commuter rail station, with a 295-unit luxury apartment building opening next to the Metra stop two years ago.

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Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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