Mundelein officials tap consultant for downtown planning

Mundelein officials have hired a familiar consultant to help plan the future of a key section of the village's downtown.

The goal, municipal leaders say, is to create an area featuring new housing, restaurants, shops and other attractions.

Farr Associates, a Chicago architectural and urban design firm, will handle this latest phase of the village's master planning effort. It's worked on projects with Mundelein officials before, including a 2012 downtown redevelopment plan.

This time, the company will focus on an area that's south of Route 176 and generally north of Hawley Street, although an important section runs along Hawley. The target area is bisected by the Canadian National railroad tracks that run north-south through that part of town.

The study area includes the village's Metra station, the nearby village hall on Plaza Circle, the old village hall building on Hawley Street, a post office on Hawley Street and other local landmarks.

"The huge redevelopment potential north of Hawley Street makes planning for it all the more important," Mayor Steve Lentz said. "This area could possibly one day be a real destination if planned well."

Lentz is excited about plans to build more apartment and condominium buildings there. Ideally, they'd be filled with people who take the train to and from work and who'd walk to downtown shops and restaurants.

One element that's been requested for the plan is a pedestrian overpass near the Metra station. It would better link people who live east of the railroad tracks with village hall and businesses on the west side of the tracks.

An overpass was publicly proposed for that area in October 2015, with a proposed 2018 construction. A cost estimate wasn't provided.

Officials also have asked Farr Associates to come up with potential locations for a performing arts center, a proposal that began gaining steam a few years ago as the community investigated what to do with the former village hall, which closed in 2014. Turning the alpine-style building into such a center was one recommendation. The building remains unused.

Mundelein Trustee Kerston Russell leads a relatively new group called the Northern Lakes Arts Collective that's working to open an arts center in the downtown area.

The group envisions a building with an auditorium, classrooms and an art gallery, Russell said. Members determined the old village hall is too small for their plans and are considering other sites.

Russell thinks an arts center can be a cultural boon and an economic catalyst that helps local bars and restaurants.

"This kind of facility changes the dynamics of a town and changes the culture of a town," he said.

Farr Associates also will look at potential land uses along East Hawley Street, possible routes for Lake County's Millennium Trail, parking, potential changes to the East Hawley Street retail corridor and other improvements.

The company will be paid an estimated $143,000 for its work. A report is due by the end of the year.

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  One of the elements that's been requested for the plan is a pedestrian overpass near the Metra station. Paul Valade/
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