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updated: 10/14/2013 1:49 PM

Report calls for pedestrian-, bike-friendly downtown Mt. Prospect

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  • Prospect Avenue south of the tracks with its landscaped median and small shops.

       Prospect Avenue south of the tracks with its landscaped median and small shops.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • The "triangle" north of the tracks, bounded by Northwest Highway, Route 83 and Busse Avenue.

       The "triangle" north of the tracks, bounded by Northwest Highway, Route 83 and Busse Avenue.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 

Planners have unveiled a vision of downtown Mount Prospect that is transit oriented and pedestrian friendly, and in which Busse and Prospect avenues play bigger roles.

Representatives of the Lakota Group, consultants hired to help Mount Prospect develop an achievable vision for downtown, told village trustees that the commuter station should be emphasized, and that Busse Avenue could be something "special."

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Kevin Clark, of the Lakota Group, said the train station is a "big part" of downtown Mount Prospect.

"That's a big reason why a lot of people live here," he said.

The draft report is the culmination of a 16-month process that included three open houses and focus groups meetings.

Clark said Mount Prospect is ripe to attract younger residents, suggesting rental units as one way to do that.

In addition, Lakota recommends making downtown both pedestrian- and bike-friendly, and enhancing the streetscape to strengthen the downtown's "curb appeal."

He said the group looked at six key downtown sites, including the area known as the Small Triangle, bounded by Route 83 (Main Street); Northwest Highway; Busse Avenue and a little of Wille Street.

"We think it's kind of a big missing tooth in your downtown," he said, pointing out the Small Triangle has a lot of asphalt.

However, he said, "We kind of envision that Busse could be a special street," with one- to two-story buildings that contain restaurants or other entertainment uses along a pedestrian friendly streetscape.

Clark said there also are opportunities at other, underutilized sites, among them the Tri-State Electronic Corp., which has seen a lot of activity recently due to the partial collapse of the building there.

"We didn't set that up or anything," Clark joked, saying among Tri-State's advantages is the Northwest Highway location and its proximity to downtown. There could be commercial space there and maybe a market, he said.

He mentioned the unique character of Prospect Avenue as well, particularly with its landscaped median, suggesting it could be a special district with a gateway and bike lanes.

Christine Williams, an independent consultant working with the Lakota Group, said downtown Mount Prospect has some retail limitations. It cannot compete for national retailers, who would be more inclined to gravitate toward Randhurst, she said.

There is a predominance of specialty retailers, most of them under local ownership.

"There is probably not a lot that is going to change that," she said, adding there is potential for a small grocery or a chain drugstore.

The reaction to the report from the village board was encouraging but mixed.

"A lot of what you have laid out in this plan are things that we have heard," said Trustee Paul Hoefert, adding he heard a lot of obvious statements but "not a lot of solutions."

He said the village has had interest from pharmacies and grocery stores before, but ultimately they decide against Mount Prospect.

"So what I would be looking for from you is why isn't there a grocery store?" he said.

Trustee Michael Zadel agreed that some of the report restates the obvious.

"From an overall planning vision type of view, I think that you have captured a lot of the things that we sought all along," he added

Trustee Richard Rogers said, "I really like the plan," noting that it addresses not only sites the board suggested, but also additional sites.

Some of the ideas, he said, could be implemented inexpensively, like putting in some trees or a patio area by the former Jake's Pizza.

He also found the idea of bicycle paths appealing.

"The south side of the tracks could be a very exciting place if it's done correctly," he said.

Trustee A. John Korn said the current board and its predecessors have put a lot of the focus on the Small Triangle without giving enough thought to other downtown locations.

"You have at least brought it to this trustee's attention about a lot of other possibilities," he said.

People don't often realize when comparing Mount Prospect to other communities, Korn said, is how small the downtown is.

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