WHEATON – After months of planning and feedback, the Wheaton City Council has formally adopted a new vision of the future of downtown Wheaton.
The council integrated the $64 million Downtown Strategic and Streetscape Plan into its Comprehensive Plan after a unanimous vote Monday night.
The downtown plan contains a series of improvements intended to stimulate economic growth and encourage people throughout the region to go to downtown Wheaton.
Features include the creation of three festival streets at Liberty Drive between Hale and Cross streets, Hale Street between Karlskoga Avenue and Front Street, and Karlskoga Avenue south of Memorial Park. The streets would serve as an open, flexible space for large events.
The downtown plan also includes suggestions for a central park, an ice skating rink, improved signage, a permanent structure for the Wheaton French Market and more retail, office and residential space.
When Mayor Mike Gresk asked if anyone on the council wanted to discuss the item before voting on it, only one member weighed in.
"It seems to me we've been discussing this and discussing it and discussing it. Let's get on with it," John Rutledge said.
The vote marks the end of a nearly two-year process, which included multiple public hearings.
At one such hearing last week, council member John Prendiville said the downtown plan would attract new residents and increase vitality in the city.
"I know there's a big price tag on this," he said. "But I think it's important that we do start taking steps to implement it."
The council has yet to discuss future execution of the proposed guidelines, Gresk said. Despite the inclusion of suggested timelines in the downtown plan, he said he expects each portion to be implemented on a case-by-case and year-by-year basis.
"The plan is $64 million, which is a whole lot of money, but it's a project that will last over 20 years," he said. "It will be a slow and sobering process we go through, not only our council, but future councils, in executing it."
To learn more about the plan, visit www.wheaton.il.us/DowntownPlan.
Proposed phases of implementation
• Phase 1 – Upgrades to South Main Street and Liberty Drive, creation of central park. Timeline: 3 to 5 years. Cost: $15.9 million.
• Phase 2 – Completion of signage and gateway enhancements. Timeline: 3 to 5 years. Cost: $800,000.
• Phase 3 – Completion of Hale Street improvements. Timeline: 5 to 10 years. Cost: $4.1 million.
• Phase 4 – Completion of Karlskoga Avenue festival street. Timeline: 10 to 15 years. Cost: $2 million.
• Phase 5 – General upgrades to existing pedestrian streets north of Metra. Timeline: 10 to 20 years. Cost: $11.9 million.
Main projects in the plan
• Creation of three festival streets at Liberty Drive, Hale Street and Karlskoga Avenue
• Creation of 80,000 square feet of new retail, 50,000 to 75,000 square feet of new offices and 1,000 new residential units
• Improved signage indicating Wheaton's amenities from nearby roadways
• Permanent French Market location
• Outdoor ice skating rink
• Central park
• Improved parking management
• Coordinated marketing plan
• Green alleyways
• Improved bike routes
• Additional festivals and programming