Face-lift slated for downtown Skokie
An attractive medallion of the globe pinpointing the village could be placed on the pavement at the center of Oakton Street and Lincoln Avenue, the symbolic heart of a new downtown improvement project unanimously approved Monday by the Village Board.
Although trustees last year voted down a “road diet” for Oakton where the street would have been narrowed and the sidewalks widened, they promised a significant upgrade to Downtown.
The beginning of that upgrade has been underway on Lincoln and Oakton for street and sewer work. The proposed schedule for work – upgrades to pedestrian movement and safety, streetscapes, roadway infrastructure, traffic signals, street lighting, parking, municipal parking lots and signs – begins in April with the project scheduled for completion next November.
Design plans will be submitted to the Illinois Department of Transportation, and bids are scheduled for winter when an overall project cost will be known. Village officials estimate the cost at $7.5 million to $8.5 million.
The Downtown tax increment finance fund will be used to pay for the project. The fund expires in 2014, which means work must occur in 2013 if it is to be used, Marketing and Communications Director Ann Tennes said.
In 2009, the village paid an outside company to conduct a market and retail analysis of Downtown.
“That study recommended extensive infrastructure and cosmetic improvements be undertaken to make downtown Skokie more attractive to businesses and pedestrians,” Tennes said.
She said the entire project has two goals: Making Skokie safer for pedestrians and vehicles and making it more “welcoming, beautiful and vibrant.”
The design was created by Gewalt Hamilton Associates, which the village hired in November last year. A committee made up of key village staff from different departments, as well as Randy Miles, president of the Independent Merchants of Downtown Skokie, has been meeting weekly. ~
The village this year took over control of downtown Oakton Street from the county, which village officials believe was a crucial first step in overhauling the area.
“This gave the village the latitude to undertake these improvements,” said Skokie Public Works Director Max Slankard.
Tennes said it will be a busy and long construction season, but the village is working closely with merchants, keeping them updated and making sure patrons know businesses are open and the best ways to get to them.
Not all of the project details are finalized. The committee liked the idea of the medallion as the centerpiece because it defines Skokie’s ethnic diversity celebrated by the village so regularly, she said. ~.