Mundelein development panel suggests ways to boost downtown
Mundelein's economic development commission believes enhancing the appearance of a heavily traveled entryway and improving parking opportunities could provide a boost for downtown businesses.
The commission also thinks reconstructing stretches of Morris Avenue and Chicago Avenue, expanding Mundelein's Metra service to include weekends and holidays, and developing Plaza Circle near village hall could improve the downtown district's profile.
Commission Chairman Larry Gallas delivered the list of recommendations Monday as part of the group's annual report to the village board. The group hopes money for the projects is included in the next municipal budget, which will be adopted in April.
Most of the proposals are holdovers from the group's 2016 report. Gallas said the group doesn't want to scrap the suggestions.
"We don't want to take these off the board and forget about them and come up with something new," he said.
Whether any of the projects are undertaken in 2018 depends on cost, timing and what additional services, resources and coordination might be needed, said Amanda Orenchuck, Mundelein's community development director.
"It does not make the recommendation less important, it just may take additional effort to complete that item," she said. "The village keeps these recommendations in mind when projects and opportunity arise."
Improving the downtown area has been a goal for village officials for decades. Various efforts have been attempted, to various degrees of success.
The most recent incentive, a grant program that helps business owners pay for aesthetic improvements to their properties, seems to be working. Tens of thousands of dollars have been pledged toward landscaping, sign replacement, facade improvements and other projects.
The commission would like village hall to spruce up the triangular park at Route 176 and Hawley Street. It now contains a gazebo and a large anti-tank gun that's part of a war memorial, but the commission described the rest of the spot as "featureless and unappealing."
The commission also said village hall should do more to encourage property owners to create convenient, attractive parking lots. The group pointed to the recent renovation of the parking lot at Hawley Lake Plaza and outside the Hong Kong Chop Suey restaurant as successes.
The reconstruction of Morris Avenue between Route 176 and Hawley Street was recommended, too.
Morris Avenue is home to many businesses and is a key cross street between Route 176 and Hawley. But the commission's report criticized the roadway's condition as "perhaps the worst street in any business district in town."
If repairing Morris Avenue is too costly, the commission recommended reconstructing Chicago Avenue between Hawley Avenue and Park Street.
As for Plaza Circle, the commission said developing the open land there could "foster a sense of place and build community pride," and bring potential customers to stores and restaurants in the downtown area.
Finally, as much as Mundelein officials might want expanded Metra service, that decision is out of their hands. In fact, Metra has announced service cuts affecting people who ride the North Central Line and use the Mundelein station.