Downtown Mundelein improvement plan gaining steam, consultant says

  • Mundelein officials have proposed facade improvements for some of the businesses along the 400 block of Lake Street. They may even label the area Uptown Mundelein.

      Mundelein officials have proposed facade improvements for some of the businesses along the 400 block of Lake Street. They may even label the area Uptown Mundelein. Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/12/2017 10:56 AM

A plan to beautify retail buildings in a small section of downtown Mundelein using public and private funds is gaining momentum, a village consultant said.

New facade surfaces, windows, roofs, signs and awnings are among the improvements proposed for the Lake Street businesses that are the focus of the effort, said architect Lane Allen, whose firm is heading the project.

 

There's even a plan to christen the targeted buildings, which are on the east side of Lake between Park Street and an alley north of Hawley Street, as Uptown Mundelein.

Specially designed, 30-foot-high signs could visually set the block apart from the rest of the downtown area.

"It's a fundamental element of creating place," Allen told village trustees during a presentation Monday night. "The idea that we're creating (a) destination is important."

The buildings being eyed house businesses including Accounting Freedom, Amazing Wig World, Mouse in the House Interiors and Debbie's Floral Shoppe.

The improvement project was announced in October. Work will be funded by the businesses or building owners, with reimbursements of up to 50 percent available through the village's Business Incentive Grant program.

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That program provides money to help local businesses or commercial landlords improve the aesthetics of their buildings.

Grant money from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program is available, too.

Participation is voluntary. A few business owners have passed, Allen said, but others are interested.

Allen declined to identify the businesses planning to participate, citing privacy concerns. Any businesses that receive money from the village grant program will be identified, however, because it's public money.

The area consists of mostly older, one-story buildings. Few of them have matching architectural elements that tie them together visually.

Businesses participating in the project aren't expected to take on the same architectural features. But proponents hope elements they add will improve the area's overall image.

"Each building has its own peculiarities, and we (need) to nurture each of them individually," Allen said.

Trustee Kerston Russell enthusiastically supported the project Monday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's going to help them. It's going to help the town. It's going to help everybody," he said.

Russell was particularly taken by the potential "Uptown" designation for the block, saying he's been using the nickname for that retail strip for three years.

Trustee Robin Meier said she thought the Uptown designation was "very catchy."

Mundelein officials have been trying to improve the downtown area for decades. Most recently, the business grant program and a sign ordinance designed to create some uniformity throughout town were implemented.

The village board likely will discuss funding aspects of the project in late August.

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