Mundelein trustee candidates express concern about plans, vision for downtown area
Some Mundelein trustee candidates have concerns about what they see as lack of planning or vision regarding the village's downtown area.
Others don't know what the boundaries are for the downtown area, and they called that problematic.
Seven people are running for three seats with 4-year terms in the April 6 election. The candidates are: Willie Davismckennie, Ray Mullen, Angela Trillhaase, Jenny Ross, Sol Cabachuela, Edith Reese and Tim Wilson.
Davismckennie, Mullen and Trillhaase are running together as part of the Mundelein in Motion slate, while the other candidates are running independently.
The candidates spoke about the downtown district and other issues Tuesday in a group endorsement interview with the Daily Herald over Zoom.
Mundelein officials have been implementing strategies for a pedestrian-friendly downtown area for decades. It's generally seen as being bounded by Route 176 to the north and Route 45 to the west, but its other boundaries aren't as clear.
Mullen, a former executive with the GLMV Chamber of Commerce, said the efforts to build a successful downtown haven't been spectacular. The poor economy has been a factor, but so has the lack of defined borders, he said.
"In the entire time that we've lived in Mundelein, there have been a multitude of opinions ... about what is downtown Mundelein," he said. "What are the boundaries, what is the epicenter of it, where does it start?"
Mullen alleged village hall doesn't have a plan to attract new businesses to the area. Such plans exist, however.
Mullen also complained that no one working at village hall comes from a business background or is tasked with bringing new businesses to town.
To the contrary, that job is one of the roles of the village's community development department and the economic development team.
Davismckennie said he's never known the boundaries of the downtown district despite living and working in Mundelein since the 1980s. He suggested officials focus on the land near Park Street, the train station on Archer Avenue, village hall on Plaza Circle and the land on Hawley Street that formerly was home to a village hall.
"That, to me, is the new downtown," he said. "If we develop that area, people will start coming."
Ross complained about what she called "a lack of consistent direction" for downtown redevelopment. Part of the problem, she said, is that policies are driven by elected officials and not village staff -- and elected officials change.
"We've had people elected as mayor who focused on completely different parts of town, in terms of development efforts," said Ross, a former Fremont Public Library District trustee. "And that results in a lack of continuity."
But Ross believes that's changing.
"There's actually a lot of business in development there now, and it's remained pretty active ... even during the pandemic," she said.
Trillhaase, who briefly served on the board in the 1990s, said a long-term plan for the downtown area is needed. She would like to see a village staffer with a sales background work on persuading developers and businesses to invest in the area.
Cabachuela, the current village clerk, said there are many great ideas for downtown redevelopment but "not a clear vision." She also said the village needs to invest in other areas "to really bring it together."
Wilson, a former member of Mundelein's economic development commission, said the village's long-term strategic plan pays attention to the downtown area. He voiced support for the strategy of bringing high-density residential developments to the downtown area in the hopes they attract businesses to serve the new residents.
The issue, he said, is executing that plan.
Reese said the village needs a concrete policy for the disbursement of funds from two tax increment financing districts in the downtown area. Such districts can be used to raise money for public improvement projects. Under the law, tax revenue generated by a property's increasing value or new development is diverted, for up to 23 years, to a special fund that pays for land purchases, construction efforts and other projects.
Reese said the downtown area is "perfect" for continued tax-district support. When asked in a follow-up interview to clarify her answer, she said a policy governing use of those funds wound ensure businesses and developers are treated fairly.