The transformation wouldn't be fast or easy, but creating a walkable Town Center along Route 120 near Lily Lake is among the suggestions in a new comprehensive plan being developed for Lakemoor.
"They'd like to have it be a real destination," Nora Beck, associate planner with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, said of those who have been involved in the yearlong process to update the village's old long-range plan.
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"People genuinely want to have a real town there rather than a place to pass through," added Jason Navota, senior planner for the agency, which has been providing village officials with guidance and technical expertise at no cost through a federal grant.
About 30 people were on hand last week when the draft of the revised comprehensive plan was presented for review. A public hearing before the village plan commission is scheduled for Dec. 11.
The plan envisions the area along Lily Lake and Route 120 as a "walkable downtown destination with a mix of uses" and one of three commercial nodes in the village. Almost half the village population lives within walking distance of Lily Lake, the signature community feature, and of the former village hall across the street.
But nearly 24,000 vehicles a day pass that point on Route 120, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
"It will take a lot of conversations with IDOT and other people who have interests along that corridor," Navota said. "There is significant work that would need to be done."
The plan envisions an area of about six to eight blocks long be redeveloped as the traditional main street for Lakemoor. This would be characterized by a row of mixed-use buildings at least two stories high on the north side of Route 120 as well as the south side near Sheridan Road and Short Street to help frame the lake.
Currently, the area includes a collection of small homes and a variety of businesses, many in older buildings and some in newer strip centers. Many buildings are for sale or rent. Residents, according to the draft plan, envision the "vacant and underutilized" commercial spaces transformed with more active uses and sidewalks to get there.
The plan also suggests the village commission a market study to determine the number and types of businesses that might work in the area, focusing on new businesses that could build on the natural assets of the community.
The village already has taken some steps to highlight the area by expanding Morrison Park and applying for grants for paths to connect it to Heritage Park via a crosswalk at Darrell Road. The village board also is considering a location for a new municipal center, which could become a focal point in the area.
But as has been consistently noted, the comprehensive plan is a guideline for future decision-making, and options can be limited by a lack of available cash.
"Any project in town will be driven by economics," said Mayor Todd Weihofen.
"It's a long-term dream," he said of the Town Center concept. "It's so far down the road, but you have to have something to shoot for."