Market Study Compares Downtown Wheaton to Surrounding Downtown Districts

A market study on downtown Wheaton looks at neighboring downtowns to provide "lessons learned" as the city works on its strategic vision.

Wheaton City Council next week will review community input, survey results, reports on traffic and infrastructure and the market study with consultants from Design Workshop as it works to create strategic and streetscape plans for downtown Wheaton. 

The 105-page market study of downtown Wheaton incorporated local and regional market conditions, trends impacting suburban downtowns, comparable downtown profiles and development recommendations and conclusions. 

According to the report, population and income are the factors impacting retail demand. The study says that because populations are not expected to grow in the next few decades and incomes may only grow modestly at a rate above inflation, retail demand would not normally grow on its own. 

To increase the city's demand for retail, according to Design Workshop, Wheaton could: Increase its population by pursuing residential development, or by delivering a better experience to downtown visitors. 

“This strategy would involve enhancing the ‘capture rate’ of overall retail spending in Wheaton compared to other downtowns and districts,” according to the report.

Design Workshop provided the city with the following "lessons learned" from neighboring downtown districts:


Naperville has successfully used SSAs, tax increment financing (TIF) and funding strategies for parking to fund ongoing public improvements.

Naperville has leveraged the Riverwalk to drive visitation and marketability of the district and has created public spaces to support the area.

A larger pool of national retailers has allowed certain projects to command higher lease rates.

Let Patch save you time. Get stories delivered to your inbox—sign up for our email newsletter. Fast signup here. You can also like us on Facebook.

Downers Grove

The theater is a good example of how a theater has remained viable and spurred surrounding activity in a similar-sized downtown district.

Downers Grove leveraged its streetscape efforts and residential projects to create a revamped image for the area over the last 15 years.


Retailers and restaurants, "engage the Metra tracks more,” than those in Wheaton.

“The downtown master plan for Wheaton should examine how the properties in Elmhurst better invite travelers from other communities.” 

The design of civic spaces encourages greater retail and entertainment activity. 


Geneva has retained a distinctive “small town” feel through events and attention to design quality.

The South Third corridor is an attractive "restaurant row." The outdoor dining, shady areas, comfortable sidewalks and attractive street add to the appeal of the South Third part of downtown Geneva.

Arlington Heights

Arlington Heights has pursued residential development as a key strategy in its downtown revitalization. 

The district has a more direct connection to a regional freeway.

The history of the area provides an example for Wheaton: How residential development can support the ongoing success of a downtown.

Downtown Arlington Heights has focused more than other areas on entertainment, distinguishing Arlington Heights in the regional market. 


The study also included recommendations that the city and Downtown Wheaton Association focus on recruiting distinctive tenants that would attract shoppers from a larger area, work to attract a mixture of local and national tenants, strengthen and diversify the lineup of festivals and create gathering places that naturally attract visitors. 

"Given its location and nature of the district, the study does not anticipate Wheaton would evolve to include a significant pool of national retailers over the next few decades (like downtown Naperville)... Downtown Wheaton should pursue a strategy that instead draws from its inherent, small town strengths rather than copying from Naperville."

Paula Barrington, executive director of the DWA said she looks forward to learning more about the Design Workshop thought processes, and what they think is "truly feasible," for downtown Wheaton. 

Steve Johnson, president of the board of directors of the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce, said on behalf of the chamber, there is concern that representatives from Design Workshop have not talked with the stakeholders of downtown Wheaton. With an expected end date of July 1, 2013 on the project, "I don't know how they're going to meet the deadline... with anything meaningful," without talking with stakeholders, such as chamber members, the Wheaton Park District, the DWA and business owners. 

Council will also review utility and traffic evaluations and a summary of public input. To view the documents for the Jan. 28 meeting, go to the city's website.

City Council will meet with Design Workshop 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28 at City Hall, 303 Wesley St., Wheaton. 

Mark Lukas January 25, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Isn't it common sense that more residential development or better stores would increase downtown traffic? In the current economy, neither is likely to happen very soon. Just about any Wheaton resident could have told them this at no charge.
Charlotte Eriksen January 25, 2013 at 08:49 PM
Thanks for commenting, George. When talking to Steve, he also mentioned Lisle, and how their plan looked good, but did not address the town's actual needs and therefore caused problems.
Patricia Herrmann January 25, 2013 at 11:40 PM
Downtown Naperville has a welcoming feel to everyday people activities. Look at the number of people walking their dogs in downtown Naperville. People stop and talk to dog owners as dogs are a social oil. The town even has pickup bags for dog owners and stores have water dishes for dog owners. There are public drinking fountains for people and at the bottom are drinking fountains for the dogs. Whether or not you have a dog, there is a feeling of welcome to their downtown area. I think 40% of households have dogs. I don't think the parks downtown even allow dogs on leash the last I looked. I sat outside the west part of the library in the park waiting for my husband who was in the library, and felt like a criminal because I don't think the dog I had on leash is allowed there.
Patricia Herrmann January 25, 2013 at 11:46 PM
I think the Metra is an attraction. Too bad there is little parking that makes any sense for ordinary people who want to use the train, people who aren't commuters. I have lived in Wheaton for decades and can make no sense of parking for the train. When you go to the website for such information, you are directed to parking at College Station to use the train. That is great for the businesses nearby as you do some shopping there before boarding the train. Downtown Wheaton needs to address this issue so people go to downtown Wheaton to get the train, park, and linger in the downtown area. Perhaps take in a restaurant after getting off the train or getting take out after going to the city.
Barb Wernicke January 30, 2013 at 08:16 PM
There are 2 downtowns in Wheaton, the one north of the tracks and the one south of the tracks. The railroad communter and freight traffic is very prohibitive in uniting the downtown area. The new overpass to the west does not incorprate the downtown area so does not improve traffic flow. Downtown Naperville does not have this train track issue nor does downtown Geneva. Years ago, Elmhurst built an underpass for the downtown area to help alleviate their train track issue.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »