Arlington Heights will pay a consulting firm $35,000 to study ways to improve the Rand Road shopping corridor and create a more unifying "district" feel to compete with surrounding Deer Park and Randhurst shopping centers.
The proposal to pay Teska Associates $35,110 to examine the area at Rand/Palatine/Arlington Heights roads was approved unanimously by the village board on Monday night, although a few trustees had questions about the merits of the expense before the vote.
"The goal of the study is to create an identity for the area established through streetscape, gateway opportunities and to unify the area, creating a 'district' as well as create a sense of entry and presence to distinguish between other retail areas," village documents said. "In addition, beautifying the area will help attract new businesses while making it a more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing environment for residents, businesses and shoppers who patronize the area."
Improvements could include entryway features, intersection identity elements, median elements, light pole identity features and landscaping.
Teska will develop a menu of improvements that could be put in place over a number of years, said Charles Perkins, director of community planning and development.
The village would have to find money for those improvements, which could include TIF district funds, capital project funding or through coinciding improvements with IDOT projects in the area, Perkins said.
Trustee John Scaletta wanted to know why the study couldn't be done by the village staff.
"We have people that do all of these things," said he said.
Perkins said that the development department is understaffed and has a heavy workload.
"Sometimes its nice to get a fresh approach from a different set of eyes," Perkins said. "I don't want to say this isn't something we can do, but having a consultant like Teska would really give us a fresh perspective on the corridor."
Trustee Mike Sidor also questioned if this was the best use of $35,000, but Trustees Robin LaBedz and Jim Tinaglia said they supported the idea.
"I'm an advocate for good design. It's important to do," said Tinaglia, who owns an architecture business in Arlington Heights and was previously on the village's design commission. "What the staff is proposing is a good idea if we can spend a few dollars to make a master plan."
Village Manager Bill Dixon noted that the money would come from TIF districts 3 and 5, neither of which are particularly active right now.
"The idea here is to pep up this area, give it some identity," Dixon said. "This is between Randhurst Village and Deer Park. We don't have a major anchor here and it is a struggle for us, so we thought this would be a good use of his money."