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Article updated: 2/3/2014 11:17 PM

Wheaton downtown plan approved, French Market license discussed

This artistís rendering shows the permanent French Market structure proposed for downtown Wheaton.

This artist's rendering shows the permanent French Market structure proposed for downtown Wheaton.

 

Photo courtesy of the city of Wheaton

This artistís rendering shows what Liberty Street will look like once downtown Wheaton revitalization projects are complete.

This artist's rendering shows what Liberty Street will look like once downtown Wheaton revitalization projects are complete.

 

Photo courtesy of the city of Wheaton

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After two years of discussions, the Wheaton City Council unanimously approved a Downtown Strategic and Streetscape Plan that will become part of the city's comprehensive plan.

"It seems to me we've been discussing this and discussing it and discussing it. Let's get on with it," Councilman John Rutledge said before the vote at Monday's city council meeting.

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The plan includes $64 million worth of projects that could take up to 20 years to complete. It has been split into five phases, the first of which is expected to cost $15.9 million and take three to five years to finish.

Enhancing South Main Street from Roosevelt Road north to the train tracks is listed as a top priority in the plan, along with other ongoing streetscape improvements, such as improved signage and parking.

Other key recommendations in the overall plan include converting Liberty Drive, Hale Street and Karlskoga Avenue into "festival streets" and creating a Central Park that could include a small amphitheater, an ice-skating rink, fountains and a permanent French Market structure.

During Monday's meeting, the council was also asked to approve a new license to French Market operator Bensidoun USA, Inc. The three year license would allow the market to continue being held in a downtown parking lot for a cost of $2,500 per market season.

Jim Kozik, director of planning and economic development, mentioned in a memorandum that city staff proposed a short-term agreement because a long-term license will likely be negotiated after details for the permanent market structure are worked out.

Councilman Phil Suess said he wanted to address the cost, as it is not increasing from the current seven-year agreement set to expire March 31.

"I appreciate the fact that the French Market has been very successful and obviously we want it to continue, but this is a three-year agreement, it's locking in the fee at $2,500. That's not even $100 a week," he said. "I think there ought to be some form of increase."

The city council agreed to postpone the discussion until its Feb. 18 meeting, to give staff members a chance to research how much other municipalities charge the operator to hold their French markets.

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