Village Board Considers Downtown Improvements

Village Board Considers Downtown Improvements

The Village Board of Trustees has approved development of a multiyear action plan to enhance the walkability, ambiance, and safety of Northbrook’s downtown retail district and surrounding areas.  In a recent Committee of the Whole meeting, Trustees reviewed a variety of projects that could be pursued over time.  The Trustees were particularly interested in projects that delivered the best “bang for your buck” in light of anticipated declines in tax revenue due to the pandemic.

Proposed changes to Cedar Lane emphasize traffic calming strategies in an area that has a high volume of pedestrians and bicyclists going to the Library, Greenbriar School, and Village Hall.  Director of Development and Planning Tom Poupard urged the Board to make decisions soon so that changes could be implemented in conjunction with a needed repaving project.

As Poupard noted, drivers frequently use Cedar to bypass the railroad crossing on Shermer.  The unusually wide street encourages speeding; a traffic study revealed that almost 92% of traffic on Cedar exceeds the posted speed limit.  The intersection at Cedar and Cherry is also seen as a difficult crossing for pedestrians.

After reviewing two options, the Trustees stated general approval of a proposal with angled parking on both sides of Cedar, a bike path on the west side, and a raised crosswalk to slow traffic. They also endorsed a permanent connection between the Library and Village Hall parking lots that would allow delivery trucks to avoid the Library’s low clearance overhang.  Other possible additions include a four-way stop at Cherry, a landscaped median on Cedar, and an extension of the bike path to Walters.

Along Shermer Road near the Village Green Park, Trustees placed a priority on upgrading appearances and accessibility to benefit local businesses.  Poupard noted that several sidewalk trees are in need of replacement, and Trustees were enthusiastic about removing planter curbs to make the sidewalks more open for pedestrians.  Attractive lighting is another priority, with Trustees praising the ambiance created at Eataco and Trattoria Oliverii. Wall murals, public art, outdoor restaurant seating, and decorative gateways were all mentioned as possible additions.  Several projects would involve partnerships with the Park District to incorporate Village Green as part of an enhanced downtown.

Trustees also discussed whether first-floor businesses should be limited to retail and restaurant entities within the Village Green Overlay zone.  Although several commented that retail uses would be preferable in the area, the consensus among Trustees was that the current state of the economy makes such a restriction unrealistic. “We should signal that we are open for business,” said Trustee Bob Israel.

A vision for the Grainger property continues to evolve as the Village narrows its options.  Having decided not to pursue a relocated Metra station or police headquarters on the site, the Village is exploring residential development with an affordable housing component.  The Trustees discussed issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) to attract developers who would support the Village’s priorities. Ideas included the creation of a pedestrian underpass or overpass to connect the future development to the Park District’s new Activity Center and other facilities on the east side of the railroad.  While an underpass might be prohibitively expensive without grant assistance, the goal of enhanced connectivity for bike and foot traffic continues to be a major focus for the Trustees as they plan future projects.