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CHICAGO-The transit-oriented-development express may be coming to the far northwest suburbs of Fox River Grove and Woodstock. The two villages are the latest communities to take advantage of the Regional Transportation Authority’s Regional Technical Assistance Program, which provides consultants and other assistance necessary to get Downtown redevelopment programs off the ground.

The RTA is the agency that runs Metra, the commuter rail service that fans out from Downtown in nearly a dozen directions.

The Regional Technical Assistance Program has provided nearly $1 million in seed money, says project manager and principal analyst Bill Reynolds. So far, Evanston, Hzael Crest, Morton Grove, Orland Park, Riverdale, Robbins, Tinley Park, University Park, Waukegan and Westmont have taken advantage of the program.

“A lot of communities see it as a catalyst in getting redevelopment going,” Reynolds tells GlobeSt.com.

Reynolds says the RTA board will soon consider a recommendation to use a request for qualifications for the next round of consulting efforts rather than a request for proposals.

Consultants explored reusing the Waukegan Metra station before city officials invited a Urban Land Institute panel to town to come up with recommendations for its Downtown and lakefront redevelopment program. “The study that we did was part of the initial push there,” Reynolds tells GlobeSt.com. “One of the things we try to do is bring all the players to the table. I don’t think it’s realistic to think a community will adopt the study exactly as we recommend. But it gives them a catalyst.”

It’s also helpful for small communities or towns with limited treasuries to get planning assistance, Reynolds adds. The small town of Fox River Grove used $58,000 to pay Consoer Townsend Envirodyne Engineers, Inc. to suggest residential, retail, office and other uses near its Metra station. Woodstock will use nearly $50,000 to pay URS Corp. to help find ways to develop a 12-acre site north of the Metra station, which itself is just north of the city’s historic Pioneer Square.

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