Enhanced links to transit will be the focus of planning in downtown Libertyville

Planning for future projects in downtown Libertyville has received a boost through an $80,000 grant from the Regional Transportation Authority.

The village would contribute $20,000 as a local match for the so-called transit-oriented development plan that would focus on the area surrounding the downtown Metra commuter rail station at Milwaukee Avenue and Lake Street.

"It would take our downtown concept plan up to the next level," said John Spoden, community development director.

The plan would focus on the appropriate number of dwelling units, land uses, access and site layout and possibilities for a mix of uses. According to the RTA, it will detail a livable and walkable downtown area that remains architecturally significant and contributes to economic development and transit ridership.

"The good of it is, you (will) have an agreed upon plan you can show to any developer (or) property owner saying, this is what the village would want to see on this property," Spoden said. The plan also will outline how transportation connections can be enhanced for current and future business, he added.

Libertyville was one of 22 applicants for the RTA's annual Community Planning Program of Projects, which this year had an agency allocation of $810,000. Libertyville's share was among the larger of the 16 projects selected.

"Libertyville is a community we haven't worked with in the past," said Heather Tabbert, the RTA's manager of local planning and programs. "They don't have a plan that specifically addresses transit-oriented development in the community."

Tabbert said the agency followed the progress of the School Street residential neighborhood just south of the train station off Milwaukee Avenue, adding it may have been a trigger for a broader look at the area.

The scope of work, including the boundaries to be covered, is expected to be finalized by the end of the year with a consultant starting next spring.

"Once the project gets started, this will be a public process," Tabbert said.

Spoden said the plan would detail specifics for development in an area that faces some challenges, such as access.

Planners are expected to be kept busy with planned or possible downtown developments, including new restaurants and residential projects. That includes the Cedar Street companies of Chicago plan for about 30 apartments at Manchester Square, at Milwaukee Avenue and Lake Street.

Plans also are pending for a townhouse-style neighborhood at Bolander Park, 625 W. Winchester Road. The village sold the land to Swanson Development Group of Lake Forest for $2.05 million.

M/I Homes of Naperville had been pursuing plans for Liberty Station, a community of 80 townhouses on what is known as the Trimm property near the Metra train station. But the company on Thursday notified village officials it has decided not to proceed.

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