A woo-what? A woonerf is a pedestrian-friendly concept proposed for Arlington Heights

Arlington Heights officials are contemplating plans to further enhance the village's downtown, including transformation of the main Vail Avenue-Campbell Street intersection into a pedestrian-friendly, European-inspired streetscape.

The village has retained consultants to develop concept plans for a proposed “woonerf,” a Dutch word for “living street” that emphasizes pedestrian traffic over that of vehicles, no curbs, and decorative permeable paver bricks. The concept is already in place on a stretch of North River Street in Batavia and Argyle Street in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood.

Arlington Heights officials say as a curbless street, the so-called Vail Avenue Promenade would be easier to close for events like the Mane Event and Taste of Arlington Heights. The Vail woonerf would essentially serve as an expansion of nearby Harmony Park, home to summer concerts and more informal gatherings of residents and visitors.

The village inked an $8,500 contract with Haeger Engineering and Smith Consulting Group in January for a preliminary study exploring the concept, but it was placed on hold in March due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as village officials devoted all resources to the Arlington Alfresco outdoor dining concept. But they've since reengaged with the consultants and say they'll use the past summer's experience — in which streets were closed for expanded restaurant use — as part of the analysis.

The proposal is among others in a preliminary downtown streetscape and improvement plan included in a village request for state funds. The village board Monday night approved resolutions formally requesting the money through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program. Administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation, the program allows for a maximum $2 million grant award.

If approved, the grant would pay for 80% of a given project, while the village would pick up the remaining 20%.

Other ideas in the downtown plan include four gateway features at locations that now serve as the entrances to Arlington Alfresco. Plans also call for ride-share drop-off/pickup areas. And the light ceiling above the Vail/Campbell intersection — a decorative feature of 440 lineal feet of lights that was installed in 2018 — could be expanded, village officials said.

They say none of the ideas are set in stone, and all will require community input and review and approval by the board.

What is already approved by the board that's included in the village's request for state funds are streetscape upgrades to nearby Evergreen Avenue and midblock crosswalks yet to be installed on Evergreen and Campbell.

The board Monday also approved resolutions seeking grants for three projects identified in the village's 2017 Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, including a new multiuse path connecting Palatine and Prospect Heights along ComEd right of way through Arlington Heights.

The state application deadline is Nov. 2.

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