Why neighbors have concerns about plans for Roosevelt Road corridor

Consultants examined Roosevelt Road corridor

Wheaton's East Roosevelt Road corridor has a hodgepodge of businesses and housing, obsolete office space and no consistent sidewalk network that encourages pedestrians to walk from one end of the nearly 2-mile stretch to the other.

Nearly as broad and wide-ranging? The complicated issues raised by neighbors and critics of a new study suggesting a major city zoning overhaul to encourage development and improve the aesthetics of the corridor.

The planning effort could have implications for the demand for affordable housing, flood control, parking, building heights and even the future of an 1890s-era cottage designed by the same architect of the Chicago Golf clubhouse.

The report by consultants from Camiros, Ltd. and a market study by Valerie Kretchmer and Associates focuses on a swath of Roosevelt from Carlton Avenue near the Illinois Prairie Path on the west to the city's border with Glen Ellyn on the east.

Some neighbors say the study extends into what really is the west, more residential corridor of Roosevelt and oppose a proposal to loosen zoning restrictions to attract retail developments. The 40-page Camiros report indicated three of the four corners at Warrenville Road are for sale and "would have retailer interest."

"Why do we insist, in my mind, on taking this retail approach where it's clearly a residential neighborhood? There's a school one block away. There's a school three blocks away at St. Mike's," said Eric Kobus, who lives on West Park Avenue.

The study recommends the city create "character areas" specifying the types of development and updating zoning regulations along four segments of Roosevelt Road.

Consultants propose a "Horizontal Mixed-Use Zone" from Carlton Avenue to West Street/Warrenville Road, currently a mix of low-intensity offices, houses and residential structures adapted into offices. In that subdistrict, the city should expand the palette of permitted land uses, including limited retail and "personal service establishments," the report states.

Farther east, a "Commercial Core Zone" between West and President streets could concentrate new development of significant size - greater than anywhere else along the corridor - taking advantaging of proximity to the downtown and the Mariano's grocery store. The Mariano's intersection has traffic congestion when cars queuing up in the west turn-lane from Naperville Road to Roosevelt.

A "Mixed-Use Flexible Zone" from President to Lorraine Road "should encourage a broad range of uses, including retail, service, office and multifamily residential," according to the report.

Finally, a "Transition Zone" ending near the Glen Ellyn border should continue to be characterized by larger auto-oriented businesses in addition to retail and service uses.

Nearly 30 residents spoke out on the study this week with an expansive list of concerns. Martha Bradley, who lives on Golf Lane, stressed the importance of improving pedestrian access to the downtown.

"We are a residential city, and our city planning should reflect that," she said. "A forward-thinking city understands that pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and bike lanes are what attract new homebuyers, keep residents, increases equity for current homeowners and subsequently increases city revenue based on increased home value and an increased tax base."

Nancy Flannery, the chairwoman of the city's historic preservation commission, worries about the possible demolition of another Jarvis Hunt-designed house, now converted into offices at 534 Roosevelt. Built in 1896, the house was one of the first summer cottages constructed for members of the private Chicago Golf Club.

"Why are we letting our history be taken away from us?" she asked.

Mayor Phil Suess said the city intends to hold a second planning session devoted to the East Roosevelt Road Corridor study to have consultants answer questions from council members and continue taking public comment. The study could pave the way for amendments to the city's comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances.

"This is the start of a process," he said. "There's no timetable associated with this process. There's no deadline."

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