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updated: 7/20/2012 6:07 AM

Wine shops, kayaking suggested to improve downtown Algonquin

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A public workshop held Thursday night let residents tell consultants what new businesses and developments they envision for downtown Algonquin and pick from a visual buffet of architectural choices.

Consultants from Land Vision Inc., Business Districts Inc. and Sam Schwartz Engineering gave an overview of their preliminary report of the downtown planning study to about 65 people in the gym of St. John's Lutheran Church & School in Algonquin.

The study, funded by a $90,000 federal grant, aims to plan the future of downtown after the so-called Western Bypass of Route 31 at Route 62 is built, possibly by late 2013.

Among the consultants' findings was that Algonquin needs to attract more employers within a five-minute driving radius of downtown so their workers will patronize downtown businesses.

Despite a widespread perception that Algonquin lacks parking, the consultants found that is not true, although better signage is needed.

Resident Sandy Vackar said she'd like downtown Algonquin to look more like downtown Geneva, with businesses such as wine stores and kid-friendly restaurants where families can have dinner.

The Fox River could be used for recreational opportunities such as kayaking, said resident Bill Silva, who pointed to Yorkville and Wausau, Wis., as towns that flourished thanks to kayaking.

Other residents suggested paddle boats and even a zip line running across the river.

The workshop included a presentation of 110 photographs depicting residential, commercial and mixed-use buildings, as well as parking and signage from places including Chicago, Olympia Fields, Park Forest and Schaumburg.

Residents were given electronic devices to rate their preferences on a scale of one to five.

Phyllis Koeppel, who's lived in Algonquin for 50 years, called the presentation "very impressive."

"It was very well put together, very well-rounded," she said.

Resident Sara Mason, whose priority is to create pedestrian pathways to better connect downtown to outlying areas, said she was happy village officials actively sought residents' input.

"It's important to have a say in the type of improvements needed," she said.

What remains to be seen, however, is the impact the Western Bypass will have on traffic, particularly on Route 62, resident John Svejcar said.

"I don't see how you can attract specific businesses until that's all done," he said.

The presentation and draft of the report of existing conditions in downtown Algonquin will be at landvision.com/algonquindowntownplan.

A second public workshop will be held sometime in midfall, said Ben Mason, Algonquin senior planner.

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