Study focuses on West Dempster future
Mike Breclaw of OKW presents a new report on developing Dempster Street near what used to be called the Skokie Swift station, now known as Dempster-Skokie. The report introduces bold opportunities for the area. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
DEMPSTER-SKOKIE STATION AREA PLAN
The plan is scheduled to go before the Village Board perhaps as early as January.
The plan is on-line at www.skokie.org.
More information on the plan and the area can be found at www.hlplanning.com/dnn/Home/tabid/2216/Default.aspx.
Updated: January 21, 2013 2:12PM
SKOKIE — A new action plan for a concentrated area including the Dempster-Skokie Station calls for greater private real estate development spurred by aggressive village investment and planning efforts.
At least a year in the making, the report was created by OKW Architects, and introduced last week to West Dempster Street stakeholders, including residents, business owners and developers. The plan is slated to go before the Village Board, perhaps in January, officials said.
“This study reinforces and expands the village’s efforts by recommending the use of excess parking capacity in station area commuter lots to support existing and future development, as well as circulation improvements for automobiles and pedestrians between the commuter lots and the retail development areas,” the report concludes.
The Dempster-Skokie Station Area Plan also examines development strategies for several specific sites with the aim of enabling the village to understand the potential for each site. The area under study included the Edens Expressway on the west to Skokie Boulevard on the east and surrounding neighborhoods.
As defined by the village, the West Dempster Street District includes a variety of retail uses, offices, commercial services, transit improvements and housing units. Properties on both sides of Dempster Street from Kilpatrick Avenue on the east to just west of Lockwood Avenue on the west are part of the district. The entire area occupies about eight-tenths of a mile.
The dilapidated condition of the area inspired the village to create the West Dempster Street District in the winter of 2002. The historic Skokie Swift station was completely renovated and is now occupied by a bank and a Starbucks. In essence, this project was the true beginning of the village’s revitalization of the area.
In recent years, the village created a tax increment finance zone in the West Dempster Street area and bought up key properties near the station – 4933-57 Dempster St., 8734-38 Bronx Ave. and 4874-4912 Dempster St.
Skokie Planning Supervisor Steve Marciani said that there has been interest in the properties, but no development news yet.
The new action plan, funded by the village and the RTA, supports Skokie’s long-term vision for West Dempster, which includes a multi-story mixed-use project with ground floor commercial space and upstairs housing.
Among the chief goals set out by the village and defined in the plan is to “encourage a pedestrian-friendly environment that capitalizes on the numerous commuters using the Dempster-Skokie CTA station.”
Mike Breclaw, OKW director of design and principal, acknowledged that one of the big issues for residents is parking – not only the impact of new development but also current conditions.
Parking was a major reason that area resident Bonnie Zarch attended last week’s meeting. The report includes several ways to add parking and parking accessibility to the area including providing more entry points to the under-used Dempster-Skokie parking lot. But one idea – opening up Carol Street as an entry point to the station – will not sit well with residents, Zarch promised.
When Zarch moved to Carol Street years ago, she said, the street was open. If there is any effort to reopen it, she said, “residents won’t go for it.”
“The additional traffic would make it horrendous,” Zarch said, promising that residents would engage in a petition drive if such a plan were adopted.
“If you can get to the station off of Conrad, and you can get in off of Greenleaf, how many entrances to the Swift lot do you really need?” she said after the meeting.
The report though doesn’t call for definitive plans to improve the area – just possibilities, a framework of sorts on which to proceed.
Breclaw said drive-through restaurants would be advantageous for the area, and he also talked about some commercial possibilities for properties – restaurants, a grocery store as well as various parking scenarios.
The report mentions the possibility of extending the Yellow Line north to the Westfield Old Orchard area in the future, a concept that has generated great controversy in the past. No plans to that effect are under way, and the CTA does not have the money to pursue such a project at this time; however, the report indicated that the train could be elevated if such a project ever chugs forward.