The city of Elmhurst has decided that the north side of town needs a little tender loving care. Work has been going on for over a year, including community meetings with both residents and businesses, surveys, research in other towns and internal discussion among city officials. Called the North York Plan, the area in question is a 2-mile stretch between Grand Avenue and North Avenue.
Lead by consulting teams at Houseal Lavigne Associates, Conservation Design Forum and Gewalt Hamilton Associates, the plan looks at how land is used, including what types of businesses are operating, what types of buildings are standing, vehicular and foot traffic, urban design, infrastructure including flood control, and more. This area is in TIF District IV, which was approved in September of 2012. (If you want more information about TIFs in general, please visit the Illinois Tax Increment Association website.)
Both residents and business owners have met in several meetings to provide opinions as to what is needed in the area and their conclusions were fairly similar. The most mentioned areas included parking, connectedness to the central business district, sidewalks and cross walks, and community perception because of the appearance of some of the buildings. To solve parking issues, consolidating parking areas and moving them behind the buildings was suggested. This might mean TIF financing would be required to purchase land. To connect this area to the downtown area, ideas including some type of trolley or bus to run between the North York Corridor and the Metra station were discussed, without gaining much traction.
Walkability was more easily addressed, including better sidewalks or paths. If parking lots are centrally located in back of the buildings, pedestrians would also be much safer. Community perception is thought to be poor because Elmhurst residents living adjacent to the area travel to other places to shop. Many people at the meetings thought the city should try to attract national stores similar to the new and popular Mariano’s grocery store. In addition, a lot of time was spent suggesting improvements to the appearance of the area including trees at intersections, medians with flowers and burying utility lines.
In fact, improving the appearance of the area seems to be the most pressing issue at the moment. The plan encourages businesses along North York Street to upgrade signage making it more consistent, improve landscaping along the street, improve the look of the I-290 interchange, and encourage economic development by recruiting bigger anchor stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond or other destination retail stores. Grant programs may be offered to improve existing business facades and move towards consolidating and revamping parking areas.
Making it advantageous for businesses who are more industrial in nature to move to Grand Avenue is also under consideration in order to make room for the more retail oriented businesses the city hopes to attract. With bigger stores, Elmhurst could become a regional shopping area bringing more tax revenue to the city and convenience to its residents.
So once again, exciting things appear to be happening in Elmhurst. Stay tuned for more updates!
If you are interested in learning more about this plan, there is a very complete report, including the illustrations and charts in this article, at http://www.hlplanning.com/portals/elmhurst/download/other_documents/North%20York%20Street%20Plan%20DRAFT%20MQ.pdf.