WHEATON – Plans to redesign Martin Memorial Plaza in downtown Wheaton could tap into Wheaton's railroad history.
The retail building next to the plaza previously was a train station, and depot benches are part of a plan to redesign the plaza.
"We wanted this idea of a double-backed bench that [is] assembled in long sections," Jon Brooke of Design Workshop told Wheaton City Council members during a planning session Aug. 28.
Masonry columns would be a major defining feature of the plaza, Brooke said.
"Rather than just replicate them, we felt it would be more interesting to create a sort of hollow, skeletal version of those, so we can actually do things like grow plant material up them, we can run lighting features inside them and they can form the things that define the space," he said. "They would have a masonry base matched throughout."
Other features would include movable seating around a gas metal fireplace, projection lamps that could be changed out seasonally and a canopy.
"It would be more of a shade canopy that a real tent," Brooke told City Council members.
A new year-round water feature would replace the plaza's current water feature.
"We have a planting in the middle, and this could be annually changed," Brooke said.
City Council member Todd Scalzo voiced concerns the proposed water feature wasn't interesting enough.
"It just looks a little uninspired," he said. "I was wondering if we have some flexibility there to do something a little more creative, a little more visually interesting."
In response, Brooke said there was room for some flexibility in the plans.
"What we wanted to do, as I said, was create something that looks good at all times of the year," he said. "Whatever goes in the middle of this thing is what provides the changeability and the excitement. What we are really trying to do is not make water this dramatic feature within the site. Remember, it's on a corner by a railroad crossing. There isn't a whole lot of space, so we wanted to try to maximize the walking space."
City officials are finalizing plans for the first phase of a project to give downtown Wheaton a facelift. Phase one of the city's Downtown Streetscape Plan includes improvements to Front Street between West and Cross streets. That includes infrastructure improvements, wayfinding signage, benches, trees and improved lighting.
Utility work is expected to begin in late fall, while streetscape work is set to take place in the spring and fall of 2018.