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Local News

Forum attendees favor permanent French Market, festival streets for downtown Wheaton

WHEATON — At Design Workshop’s second open house to gather input on elevating Wheaton’s position among suburban downtowns, attendees chose building a permanent French Market structure and developing festival streets as their top recommendations.

These two options gathered 54 and 46 percent of attendees’ votes, respectively, during the event held April 4. The next top priorities included adding wayfinding signage around downtown and employing economic development strategies. Attendees were told to pick their top three recommendations.

The total cost for all the options that Design Workshop has proposed is $17 million to $20 million, paid over 20 years as the plan is implemented.

About 25 residents attended the forum. But the survey is expected to be available online soon at the city of Wheaton website,, for those who were unable to be there.

The firm previously held an open house Feb. 28 after presenting its initial ideas and vision during a Wheaton City Council planning session Jan. 29.

Some of the options being explored by the firm include adding benches and signage near the Prairie Path, installing new streetscape amenities, adding parking, creating a “central park” south of the railroad tracks and offering additional programming.

Enhancing certain streets to serve as festival streets means those streets would serve as the center of events and the general downtown, especially during the warm months when visitors seek outdoor dining.

Streets being considered include Liberty Drive, Hale Street and Karlskoga Street. When asked to prioritize which streets should be made into festival streets both in terms of impact and urgency, forum attendees chose Liberty Drive as their top priority, followed by Hale and Karlskoga streets.

Some ideas for a central park located south of the tracks include using it for the proposed permanent French Market structure, passive or active recreation features, parking or a winter ice skating rink. Most attendees favored the French Market option.

This public meeting regarding downtown planning comes amid announcements of business closings and openings in the area.

The Downtown Wheaton Association was notified April 1 that Austin BBQ, 226 W. Front St., closed its doors after about two years in the city, DWA Executive Director Paula Barrington said. Uptown Girl, 127 Wesley St., is scheduled to close mid-summer, but it may close sooner, Barrington said. Paper House, 124 N. Hale St., is expected to close in May.

Barrington said the closings help the DWA identify what’s working for businesses downtown and other ways the association can help.

Upcoming openings include interior design store Bella Flora Mia, 124 N. Main St., in mid-April; Home Again Consignment and Resale, 123 W. Wesley St., later this month; and fashion and antiques store Bella-Roba, 104 N. Hale St., in late spring, Barrington said. A women’s fashion store also is expected to open at 107 E. Front St., but Barrington said she was unsure of the store’s timeline.

Design Workshop will host another public meeting in May, following the firm’s review of survey responses. Design Workshop officials plan to present a final plan to the Wheaton City Council in early summer.

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