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.
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 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.