Wheaton business owners will meet Monday with city engineers and designers as they prepare to break ground on a multiyear project to make downtown more vibrant and accessible to their customers.
During the session at city hall, businesses will review the latest plans to revitalize a segment of Front Street and replace underground pipes that provide water to shops and restaurants. That infrastructure work could begin as early as late fall.
The redesign of Front Street would serve as a model for later stages of a downtown streetscape project that could cost more than $27 million. The city could reconfigure parking, create new gathering spaces and rebuild streets to encourage redevelopment and foot traffic.
City council members have not yet decided how to pay for the ambitious project or finalized its scope. But they have hired Primera Engineers to design roughly $5 million in improvements along Front, between West and Cross streets.
The city tentatively is planning to replace three of the four segments of water mains that run under that stretch of the east-west road in October or November. Those pipes date to the 1920s, Assistant City Manager John Duguay said.
A section of water mains under Front between Hale and Main streets would remain in place. Those pipes were installed about 30 years ago.
Above ground, the streetscape work and reconstruction of Front Street would not begin until spring or summer 2018, if the council agrees to proceed.
Engineers are working closely with Design Workshop consultants who unveiled a downtown streetscape plan in October 2013 and a more detailed blueprint last year. Representatives from both firms will answer questions on the first phase of the project at the meeting Monday afternoon.
New trees and lighting are among the proposed upgrades along Front Street. Wider sidewalks would make room for an "amenity zone" with outdoor dining, shade, benches and bike racks, Design Workshops wrote in the 2016 report.
The concept Design Workshops will present to businesses Monday calls for a mix of diagonal and parallel parking spaces, said Jon Brooke, the firm's Chicago office director. Some currently angled spots also could be converted to parallel spaces.
"But we have been careful to ensure the number of parking spaces on each block will be the same or more than existing," Brooke said in an email.
The city would keep Front Street open, but traffic would be funneled down to one lane because of the roadwork. Crews would move down one side of Front Street and then snake around back to minimize the disruption for storefronts.
The Downtown Wheaton Association will help restaurants and shops reassure their patrons they can still reach their businesses during construction, Executive Director Paula Barrington said.
"We're also looking forward to maintaining the parking along Front Street as much as possible," she said. "That is key."
The meeting is aimed at business and property owners downtown, but anyone can attend at 3 p.m. at City Hall, 303 W. Wesley St.
The city council will review the feedback April 24.