Glen Ellyn wants downtown designated as historic district
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Glen Ellyn's downtown is a few steps away from becoming part of the National Register of Historic Places.
Village officials have been pursuing the historic district designation since October when they hired a historic consultant to prepare documents for a formal nomination to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. The adoption of the downtown strategic plan in 2009 also recommended the village pursue such a designation.
Granacki Historic Consultants, the firm that prepared the village's packet, will submit the village's nomination to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency by the end of the month, and the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council will consider approval at its June 26 meeting at Loyola University.
If approved, the National Park Service could place Glen Ellyn's downtown on the register as soon as August.
The village's nomination packet says the downtown is a physical representation of the commercial history of Glen Ellyn from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century with buildings that include the Queen Anne architectural style of the 19th century, Commercial style and historic revival styles of the early 20th century and Tudor-Revival style favored by the village's plan commission in the 1920s and 1930s.
The nomination includes two proposed districts, on the north and south sides of the existing Metra tracks, formerly the Galena and Union Railroad tracks that came to town in 1849 and spurred commercial development in the downtown area.
The proposed districts are roughly bordered by Pennsylvania Avenue on the north, Hillside Avenue on the south, Forest Avenue on the east and Glenwood Avenue on the west.
Lee Marks, chairman of the village's historic preservation commission, said the historic designation is good news for preservationists and businesses alike, since people become "enthused about shopping in a charming town."
"It's important to think about the connection between historic preservation and business," Marks said. "We're all trying to make a comeback in the business district and you need to connect it to heritage tourism. It all goes hand-in-hand."
Property owners within the boundaries of the historic districts would be eligible for a 20 percent tax credit if they rehabilitate their buildings according to federal historic guidelines.
Marks said officials from the state historic preservation agency will make a presentation to local business owners about the building rehabilitation process.
The proposed north district includes 34 buildings, 28 of which are of historical character, according to Granacki. Two structures were originally built as banks and two as theatres -- one of which, the Glen Art Theatre, is still used for that purpose. The area also includes the McChesney & Miller grocery store, the longest continually operated retail business in DuPage County.
The proposed south district includes 20 buildings, 18 of which are of historical character. It includes a former school (now the village's Civic Center) and First United Methodist Church.
Officials from Granacki say the buildings in the downtown exhibit minor alterations, but the overall integrity of the district is good.
The designation, if approved, does not put any restrictions on making alterations to buildings by property owners, according to Victoria Granacki, principal of Granacki Historic Consultants.
"The national register is easier to take, in a sense, that you get the carrot and not the stick," she said.
The historic preservation agency awarded the village an $8,500 grant in December 2011 to fund the consultant's work.
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