Nearly $2 million worth of improvements are proposed to spruce up Huntley's historic downtown along Main Street, which is home to buildings more than 100 years old.
"It's the historic heart of Huntley," said Charlie Nordman, the village's director of development services.
The village board recently reviewed plans calling for widening sidewalks along Main Street, adding carriage walks with raised planters, benches, bike racks, trash receptacles and trees along the parkway.
Parking would be reconfigured along Main Street and within the municipal parking lot creating additional spaces throughout downtown to accommodate a proposed 5,400-square-foot mixed-use retail building. A new parking lot also is proposed for village property south of Main Street businesses. Overall, parking would increase from roughly 187 to 219 parking spaces in downtown, Nordman said.
Main Street also would be raised to reduce curb heights and make the street closer to level with sidewalks.
Plans also call for reconfiguring the intersection of Route 47 and Main Street to create a plaza on the northwest corner with a statue at its center along with landscaping, as well as improving the northeast and southwest corners.
"The bulk of the work will occur between Route 47 and Church Street focusing around the (village) square (where the gazebo is located)," Nordman said.
The purpose of the improvements is to make downtown more aesthetically appealing and pedestrian friendly. Features like decorative crosswalks and bump-outs, which extend the sidewalk into the street, help make intersections safer for pedestrians who would only have to cross two lanes of traffic instead of four. They also have a calming effect on people inclined to speed through intersections, Nordman said.
Officials also are researching where to relocate overhead power/utility lines that currently run along Main Street in front of shops. An option would be to move them underground. The cost of moving the lines has not been determined.
"Realistically, they will be probably relocated somewhere else, potentially to the back of the buildings," Nordman said. "That will be further investigated this year."
The village board first saw conceptual plans last fall that were later refined after trustees' feedback. Plans might be approved by late March, Nordman said.
Officials propose paying for the improvements with monies from a special taxing district established in January 2013 over the downtown area.
The tax increment financing, or TIF, district -- a tool allowing incremental tax revenues from improved properties to be captured in a separate fund for redevelopment purposes -- and streetscape improvements were part of the village's downtown revitalization plan developed in 2010. The TIF district has not generated any revenues as yet.
"It's going to be a phased approach," Nordman said. "There needs to be increment generated in the TIF."
Improving building facades comes next.
"The goal for the village board this year is to implement a facade improvement program within the TIF district," Nordman said.