Should Wheeling's Restaurant Row get a riverwalk? Consultants to take a look

A planning and architectural firm has been hired to develop promotional strategies for Wheeling's famed Restaurant Row.

As part of the study, the Lakota Group also will determine if an oft-discussed public riverwalk can be built along the Des Plaines River, which runs parallel to the Milwaukee Avenue dining district.

The Wheeling village board approved a $108,485 contract with the Chicago-based company this week. The pact comes five months after the board adopted a new strategic plan that prioritized maintaining Restaurant Row as a source of community pride.

Wheeling officials hope the study leads to a branding and streetscape plan that will enhance Restaurant Row, which essentially runs between Lake-Cook Road and Hintz Road. People should know they're in Restaurant Row as they drive through it, said Patrick Ainsworth, Wheeling's economic development director.

At the suggestion of Trustee Ray Lang, a short stretch of Milwaukee Avenue between Hintz Road and Tower Drive - essentially, the village's southern border there - will be included in the study, too.

The Lakota Group also will provide specific economic development strategies to lure new businesses and customers to the area, Ainsworth said.

As for the riverwalk, the village is counting on the consultants to assess the feasibility of such an attraction "or come up with some alternatives for place-making opportunities," as Ainsworth put it.

The Des Plaines River runs south through Wheeling, east of Milwaukee Avenue and the businesses there. Parts of it are very close to Restaurant Row.

Village officials are considering building a walkway on the western bank of the river between Lake-Cook Road and the Cook County Forest Preserve District's Dam No. 1 Woods, documents indicate.

Riverwalks along several waterways attract visitors to Naperville, St. Charles, Elgin and other suburbs.

Kevin Clark, a planner and landscape architect with Lakota, promised "a really comprehensive look at Restaurant Row."

Residents and existing businesses along the corridor will have opportunities to participate through surveys, interviews and an open-house-style forum.

"A big part of this is engaging people," Clark said.

Four other companies will work with Lakota as subcontractors. They'll focus on engineering issues, wetlands and floodway assessment, the real estate market and funding options.

Those companies are Rosemont-based SPACECO Inc.; Christopher B. Burke Engineering, also of Rosemont; Nebraska-based Hoffman Strategy Group; and Metro Strategies of Downers Grove.

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  A planning and architectural consulting firm has been hired to develop promotional strategies for Wheeling's Restaurant Row. Brian Hill/
  The Old Munich Tavern is among the businesses on Wheeling's famed Restaurant Row. Russell Lissau/
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