Eataco Proposal Propels Downtown Discussion

Eataco Proposal Propels Downtown Discussion

A proposed pergola requested by Eataco may jumpstart changes to Northbrook’s downtown streetscape.  A preliminary review of the proposal by the Village Board opened the possibility of expanding sidewalks into existing street parking spaces and removing curbs and raised beds surrounding current trees in the sidewalk. Eataco is also preparing to expand this summer with a new lounge in a vacant adjoining space.

Eataco’s owners would like to create a year-round covered outdoor dining space wrapping both sides of the eatery on the northwest corner of Shermer and Meadow Roads.  Their proposal notes the importance of outdoor dining and promises to offer “a permanent patio that will be safe, entertaining, weatherproofed, heated for the colder seasons to keep the guests warm and cozy, [and] lighted year-round to give the perfect ambiance.”  Owner Kadir Cicek told the Trustees that temporary chain railings around the seating area are frequently moved and knocked over by passersby.

While Trustees praised Eataco’s value to the downtown area, they noted concerns that installing a permanent pergola would impede sidewalk traffic.  Director of Planning and Development Michaela Kohlstedt stated that the proposal would leave only about three feet of sidewalk between the pergola and the curbs surrounding sidewalk trees along Shermer; standards require a minimum of four to five feet for accessibility.

In addressing that challenge, Village staff referred to ideas previously contemplated in the recent Downtown Revitalization Study. For example, parking spots on the north side of Shermer might be transformed into pedestrian right-of-way space.  The staff report noted, “Elimination of the parking spots and expansion of the sidewalk would require additional design and discussion with the Owner and the adjacent businesses…. It should be noted that this concept may be something that the Village could set up temporarily to use as a test concept.”

Public Works Director Kelly Hamill remarked at the meeting that transforming street parking into pedestrian right-of-way could benefit other restaurants along the Shermer corridor, including Trattoria Oliverii and The Landmark Inn. “This is an out of the box idea where we could change some uses and allow more outdoor dining down the whole block, not just in front of Eataco,” said Hamill.

The Board also discussed removing the raised tree beds and curbs, which Trustee Johannah Hebl described as “dangerous as is.”  Trustee Dan Pepoon agreed that the curbs are tripping and bicycle hazards, and argued that they “are taking up valuable space where every inch is needed.”  Hebl and Pepoon both suggested that the raised beds should be replaced with grade-level tree installations.

Although this preliminary review required no binding decision by the Board, most Trustees indicated that they would be open to possibly moving forward with the proposed streetscape changes that would accommodate such a pergola. Trustee Kathryn Ciesla praised Village staff for their creative and proactive approach to the problem.  On the other hand, Trustee Bob Israel felt strongly that a permanent structure outside Eataco would be problematic.

“In the past we’ve had people complain about parking, so those nine parking spaces have value,” noted Israel. Without changing the parking spots, he noted, a permanent pergola would make the sidewalk “unattainable for the handicapped or for pedestrians walking three across.”  He expressed a preference for temporary outdoor seating.

The pergola proposal will be reviewed by the Architectural Control Commission, and the ACC’s recommendations will be discussed at a future Village Board meeting.

In the meantime, Eataco is preparing to expand into adjoining space at 1344 Meadow Road.  The Next Door Lounge, according to owner Serah Cicek, will be connected to the original restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. The owners hope to open the new space sometime in June.

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