Keith Benman |

Passengers disembark from a southbound Metra commuter train in Homewood, where village officials are pitching the Metra/Amtrak station there as a prime asset for businesses that locate nearby.What village officials bill as Orland Park’s downtown doesn’t look much different from the rest of the LaGrange Road corridor, a 2-mile retail mecca crammed with restaurants, malls and big box stores.

But that’s starting to change as it kick-starts an ambitious plan to transform the area around LaGrange and 143rd Street into a transit-oriented development centered on the Metra station there.

“This station is important to us because we are building a downtown around it,” said Karie Friling, Orland Park’s director of development services. “The mayor thought we needed a downtown. This has been his baby.”

A 295-unit, $65 million luxury apartment building dubbed Ninety7Fifty opened there two years ago. It is now 96 percent occupied. A $1.3 million hike-and-bike path now bridges LaGrange Road. Construction of a 120,000-square-foot University of Chicago Medical Center is slated to start in an empty lot just east of the train station this year. And a Mariano’s grocery is going up across LaGrange Road along with a 230-unit apartment building. Read more