• Megann Horstead

Village moving forward with downtown development plan


The makeup of downtown Lake Bluff could soon see change should draft guidelines for new developments be presented to the Village Board.

Teska Associates met with members of the Lake Bluff Architectural Board of Review, the joint Lake Bluff Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals to review a proposed plan for developing downtown Lake Bluff on Dec. 16.

The proposed draft guidelines for the downtown area examines architecture, identifies streetscape, implements general policies, and provides detail that govern within blocks 2 and 3 of the central business district. Some of the items outlined in it include attention to parking and landscaping, signage and lighting, plazas and pedestrian accessways, among others.

Lake Bluff’s partnernship with Teska Associates is a continuation of a planning development study that began in 1998, in which the village sought to define its downtown vision for blocks 1 and 4 of the central business district.

Over the years, the downtown area has seen change and with it, village officials agreed that community feedback has been positive.

A shift took place in the downtown visioning project, placing the focus on blocks two and three of the central business district, in which is south of Oak Avenue between North Avenue and Scranton Avenue.

Brandon Stanick, assistant to the village administrator for Lake Bluff, told The Leader that the timing was right for the village to circle back and review their vision for developing the central business district.

“We’re of the right mind to get in front of that,” he said. “The village pursued the downtown area prior to hearing about desire to redevelop those blocks. Most of the properties south of Oak Avenue toward Scranton Avenue we understand are under new ownership,” he said. “We’re aware of their desire to redevelop portions of block two.”

Village Administrator Drew Irvin pointed out that change is underway on block 3 and the new owners have a plan in mind.

“That sale [of PNC on block 3], that sale to our understanding is imminent,” he said. “We suspect these new owners may come in as developers as opposed to landlords. They’ve talked about this with us, so that’s a very real possibility.”

Stanick refuted concerns expressed by those in attendance at the meeting for not addressing zoning and planning codes in the draft guidelines, saying that it’s not atypical in nature and in moving forward, developers will have two options. He said that Lake Bluff doesn’t currently have any petitions for new developers.

“Should a developer come—and that’s a typical procedure—they would have the option to receive a text amendment or a variation,” he said.

Village officials elicited information and sought community feedback regarding the vision for downtown Lake Bluff in a number of ways, including the launch of a project website in the spring of 2015, the release of a web-based survey the following summer, among others.

In reviewing some of the common threads that appeared after reaching out for community feedback, Teska Associates principal Jodi Mariano pointed out how the proposed guidelines are meant to boost additional support for developments that have been received positively.

“We’ve heard in addition to the development sites, there’s also these really wonderful public gathering areas,” Mariano said, noting the popularity of Scranton Alley and other village offerings. “We’d like to encourage those sorts of things to continue to happen and if we can make placeholders and new developments for that to happen, that’s something you probably caught in this (planning) document.”

Officials will meet for further discussion of the downtown visioning project during a joint meeting of the PCZBA and the ABR on Jan. 20. The village board is expected to vote on final draft guidelines at a later date.

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