Elgin transit plan focuses on larger redevelopment
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A preliminary draft plan for the so-called Chicago Street Station Area Plan in Elgin runs the gamut of redevelopment proposals, from street beautification to multistory housing along Route 31.
Chuck Hanlon, principal of Land Vision, Inc., based in St. Charles, presented the plan at a meeting attended by about 20 residents, business owners and stakeholders Wednesday night at The Centre of Elgin.
The plan looks at opportunities for future redevelopment in downtown Elgin, with a focus on improving access to the Chicago Street Metra station and increasing RTA ridership. It is funded by a $80,000 RTA grant with a $20,000 matching contribution from the city of Elgin, said Dave Waden, Elgin senior planner.
The final plan, which will require approval by the city council, can provide a blueprint for development as opportunities come up over time, Hanlon said.
The plan includes landscaping improvements on Route 31 south of Chicago Street, which resident Paul Berman said is sorely needed. "Aesthetics and perception are important," he said.
The completion of Riverside Drive sometime next year will spark opportunities to attract more businesses, Waden said. "That's a vital piece of land on the riverfront," he said.
The plan also includes ideas like building a new city hall at the corner of Highland and Douglas, a parking structure on Dexter Court and a multifamily residential development where the U.S. Post Office now stands, should the post office decide to leave, Hanlon said.
"It will certainly take a long time to implement all this -- if at all it is implemented," he said.
Also, the Hemmens Cultural Center could be rebuilt on the southwest corner of Kimball Street and North Grove Avenue, by the Fox River, Hanlon said.
"An artistic marquee-type building visible from Route 31 would be a great thing," he said.
The future of the Hemmens, which operates at a loss of more than $700,000 annually, is among the topics the city council will discuss at its next strategic planning session.
The consultants considered moving the Chicago Street Metra station to the north, but decided against it because of its cost and logistics. Instead, the current station should be improved with landscape and parking, Hanlon said.
"We spent probably most time (on this) out of everything in the plan," he said. RTA has determined that its train rail yard along Route 31 should be moved west at some point in the future, he added.
The plan also includes building multistory housing on Route 31 from Highland Avenue to Kimball Street.
"That's really dreaming, because we have a lot of projects to finish up before we add that amount of residential in the future," Hanlon said.
The city council approved moving forward with the study in October 2011, and a first public meeting was held in July 2012, Waden said. The consultants will present its draft plan to the planning and zoning commission, possibly as early as August, he said.
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