Downtown Libertyvlle plan to focus on pedestrians, transit

  • Members of a task force working on a transit-oriented plan for downtown Libertyville began the effort recently with a walking tour.

    Members of a task force working on a transit-oriented plan for downtown Libertyville began the effort recently with a walking tour. Courtesy of Village of Libertyville

  • Members of a task force that will make recommendations regarding transit-oriented development in downtown Libertyville recently held their initial meeting.

    Members of a task force that will make recommendations regarding transit-oriented development in downtown Libertyville recently held their initial meeting. Courtesy of Village of Libertyville

 
 
Updated 9/8/2015 2:52 PM

Downtown Libertyville already has a lot going for it, but a new effort is aimed at making any remaining potential development focus on a pedestrian-friendly environment and access to the train station.

A group comprised of 15 local residents, business owners, village officials and representatives of bus, rail and transportation agencies recently started work on a transit-oriented development plan. The $100,000 effort, expected to be completed next spring or summer, is funded by $80,000 from the Regional Transportation Authority's community planning program and $20,000 from the village.

 

Initial work included a walking tour to view the area from a planning perspective without having to find a parking space or thinking about what to have for dinner at one of the many restaurants. The idea was to view the area with fresh eyes and discuss the potential, rather than making specific suggestions.

"As we identify future development sites, we're not just saying `Build something here,'" said Michael Blue, principal with Teska, Associates Inc., the Evanston-based consulting firm guiding the effort.

Blue said Libertyville has some transit-oriented development characteristics -- such as a "street wall" of businesses with parking behind and walkability to the Metra station. Transit-oriented is a common phrase in planning circles that can have different meanings, he added.

In this study, the core assumption is "it is a development form which recognizes that the car is part of how we live but is not dependent on it," he said. As the process continues, a clearer picture will develop of what existing characteristics should be embraced and what should be encouraged as new projects are proposed.

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"We'll get a better sense of the type of structures, the uses ... and that will guide development in the future," said Heather Rowe, the village's economic development coordinator.

The RTA is funding many similar projects throughout the region. For example, Bartlett began work on its plan last month, and Elgin last December adopted recommendations for the area around the Chicago Street Metra station, such as multifamily housing leading into the central business district.

Rowe said the group will meet several times in the next year. Data will be collected through focus groups and interviews, and public opinion will be solicited at a workshop and public open house to be scheduled.

"We're going to look to the community to get their ideas," according to Blue. A website and community survey also are planned, he added, but it's too early in the process to start talking about potential development.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

One key area to be addressed is the train station itself and 7 acres known as the Trimm property, just west of the commuter parking lot. Two self-described transit-oriented developments that would have brought in hundreds of new residents were proposed, but neither came to fruition.

Libertyville's plan is envisioned as a step-by-step blueprint but won't be binding. It ultimately will make recommendations that could include multifamily residential and commercial developments and improvements to pedestrian, bicycle, public transit and vehicle circulation around the station.

@dhmickzawislak

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