Community Development - Village of Skokie 2020 Plan for Sector A: Downtown

Combining over four years of planning and public participation that involved S. B. Friedman & Company, The Lakota Group, Metro Transportation Group, staff and stakeholder interviews, focus group meetings, a community workshop, the Committee on Downtown Development, the Independent Merchants of Downtown Skokie, and the Downtown Task Force, the 2020 Plan provides development direction by determining appropriate and compatible land uses based on a combined vision, market opportunity, and development potential. The plan also provides realistic development strategies and future actions needed to implement the plan. Poster size print copies of the plan are available for $9.00 in the Planning Division Office at Village Hall, 5127 Oakton Street. The 2020 Plan for Sector A: Downtown was adopted by the Village Board on October 1, 2007. Please click on the map to open an enlarged image, and use the links on the left to navigate through the text.

(click on map to enlarge)

 

PURPOSE OF THE PLAN
In its 2005 revision, the Village of Skokie's Comprehensive Plan directed that the Land Use Plan for Sector A - Downtown be updated and that those revisions and other narratives become incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan. In our 2006 Citizens Survey, Downtown redevelopment was the top issue in the Village with 82% of Skokie residents with an opinion stating that the issue was important, very important, or essential. A sector plan addresses the specific needs of a neighborhood. As Downtown and the Village as a whole undergo redevelopment, land use guidelines are needed that tailor development to the area's strengths and opportunities. The purpose of this 2020 Plan for Sector A: Downtown is to provide development direction by determining appropriate and compatible uses based on our combined vision, market opportunity, and development potential. This plan also provides realistic development strategies and future actions needed to implement this plan.


 

 

STUDY AREA CONTEXT
Sector A is located near the southwestern edge of the Village. Development within the Downtown remained relatively static until the Village implemented its first Downtown tax increment financing district (TIF) in 1990. By 1993, the first two redevelopment projects were underway: Lincoln Terrace, live-work townhomes over ground-level commercial space at Warren Street and Lincoln Avenue, and what is now Aldi and Market Place on Oakton. Nine more new residential, mixed-use, or commercial projects were completed or underway by summer 2007, totaling 508 new residential units and 76,500 sq. ft. of new retail and commercial space. In 2000, Sector A had 8,230 residents. In 2005, after Pfizer closed its Parkway campus, the Village counted every job in Skokie and found that 2,772 people worked in Sector A. The Skokie Public Library and Oakton Community College completed major expansions during the same period. Plans to open a new CTA Yellow Line station at Oakton Street and Skokie Boulevard, the development of the Illinois Science + Technology Park, and the pending redevelopment of the northwest corner of Lincoln Avenue and Oakton Street are new key activity generators, bringing more residents, employees, and visitors Downtown. We see many influences affecting future development in Downtown, some of which are listed below:

Illinois Science + Technology Park (IS+TP)
A master plan was developed by Forest City Enterprises and approved by the Village Board in 2006 for a 23-acre multi-building campus on the former G. D. Searle & Company site. When completed, IS+TP could eventually contain 2,000,000 sq. ft. of research and office space, three parking garages, over three acres of parks and plazas open to the public, extensive streetscaping and traffic improvements, and up to 6,000 jobs. In June 2007, there was 670,000 sq. ft. of research and office space at IS+TP and about 750 employees working on site.

Oakton Station
In addition to bringing additional commuters to the area, this new CTA Yellow Line station will create transit-oriented development opportunities and make Downtown an even more attractive place to live and work by providing easy and fast access to and from the City of Chicago and other suburbs connected to the CTA system.

Oakton Community College
The campus completed a major expansion in 2006, increasing the size of the facility to approximately 180,000 sq. ft. and providing a solid southern anchor. Students, staff, and campus visitors are potential residents and patrons of Downtown businesses and governmental services. 

Continued Residential and Mixed-use Development
Recent and ongoing housing development is creating the critical mass of Downtown residents that is essential to support business development. It will also create an active environment that will attract additional visitors and potential future residents to the area.

Civic Core
Consisting of the Village Hall, the Public Library, Skokie Farmers' Market, and the Historical Museum, the civic core attracts people from all sectors of the community for various informational, civic, and cultural services.

Oakton Park, Water Playground, and Exploratorium
This activity center for children and families attracts Skokie residents and visitors from throughout the region and is also the site of the annual Skokie Festival of Cultures, which attracted over 20,000 people in 2007.Considering the unique characteristics of Downtown, well-organized appropriately-scaled new development will further enhance Downtown Skokie's image and make it a more vibrant place to live, shop, and work.


 

 

  PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
The development of this plan began in 2003 when the Village hired S. B. Friedman & Company, The Lakota Group, and Metro Transportation Group to develop Downtown 2020, an analysis of existing physical and transportation conditions, a commercial and residential market analysis, and a concept plan for Downtown with highlights of key elements and land use policies addressing strategies needed to carry out projects described in the plan. The consulting team conducted individual staff and stakeholder interviews with key Village staff and community leaders and conducted focus group meetings in December 2003 with 29 community members and leaders, which included Village trustees, Plan Commission members, business owners, and civic leaders, who participated in an open discussion about strengths and weaknesses of Downtown and potential project ideas. Combining this information with other demographic, economic, market, and land use data, a community workshop was conducted in May 2004. The consultants worked with participants to get feedback on different redevelopment scenarios. Focus group members received specific invitations to attend and a press release, formal legal notice, and signs posted in Downtown storefronts invited all members of the community to the event. Over 70 people participated in the community workshop. Downtown 2020, which included an analysis of existing conditions, a market analysis and development program, priority projects and actions, and land use policies and regulatory issues, was presented to the Plan Commission in December 2004. The Plan Commission considered that plan and agreed in principle with many of concepts presented. Ultimately, the Plan Commission decided further study was needed to make the plan more flexible, and in some areas, more general. The Committee on Downtown Development (CODD) was created by the Mayor, consisting of three Plan Commissioners and three Village Trustees. The committee held seven public meetings in summer and fall 2005 on the plan for Sector A. Included in this process was the Independent Merchants of Downtown Skokie (IMODS), which presented a comprehensive report and recommendations to CODD in fall 2005. Many ideas and comments from IMODS were incorporated into the committee's formal comprehensive report, which was presented to the Village Board in December 2005 and allowed for public discussion following the presentation. The Board directed the Village Manager to present an Action Plan within three months based upon the committee's listed recommendations. The most significant land use recommendation of CODD is that "the Village should envision development of a downtown area that deviates from the traditional view of Oakton and Lincoln where one-story storefront businesses have been the dominant land use ... [and] that the Village should take advantage of the Forest City technology park and the new CTA transit station to encourage more mixed-use developments. "Concurrently with the public meetings conducted by CODD, the master plan for the Illinois Science + Technology Park (IS+TP) was being developed during 2005 and 2006, reviewed by the Plan Commission, and ultimately approved by the Village Board in January 2007. The IS+TP plan establishes an employment center that was to be integrated into the fabric of Downtown, makes substantial traffic, stormwater control, and streetscaping improvements, and provides a significant amount of open space available for public use. The Village Manager created the Downtown Task Force (DTF) in January 2006 to provide an action plan to implement the various recommendations of CODD's report to the Village Board, and in 2006, delivered that Action Plan to the Village Board. Included were recommendations about redevelopment objectives, incentive programs, parking, creating a Wi-Fi district, aesthetics, funding, land use and scale of buildings, marketing, and methods for continuing communications between groups. The DTF then worked to implement a major redevelopment project Downtown. After evaluation of nine potential redevelopment sites, the block at the northwest corner of Oakton Street and Lincoln Avenue was selected, requests for qualifications were issued, responses were reviewed. In May 2007 a developer was selected by the Village Board. The focus of the DTF shifted to combining the work of Downtown 2020, CODD, IMODS, and IS+TP into this plan.  This 2020 Plan for Sector A: Downtown was available for 30 days of public comment and review in July 2007, the subject of public hearings before the Plan Commission and Village Board in August and September, and finally adopted on October 1, 2007.


 

 

CORE CONCEPTS
The creation of this plan involved a comprehensive approach based on public involvement, market analysis of residential and commercial uses, an analysis of physical conditions and land use relationships, and preliminary evaluation of traffic circulation and access. These data, combined with input from the public participation process, formed the basis for the following core concepts:

  Redefine Downtown Skokie
As we move forward into the 21st century, Skokie is changing and will continue to change. Part of this change includes the expansion of the boundaries of Downtown Skokie due to additional activity centers that either did not previously exist or that now exist in a different way, such as transit hubs at Oakton Station and the Oakton Street and Lincoln Avenue intersection, jobs at the IS+TP, shoppers at retail anchors, and users of facilities like Oakton Park, government offices, and Oakton Community College. The purple line on the map defines the expanded Downtown Skokie.

  Connect the Different Parts of the Area
Many of these new activity centers have barriers limiting their connectivity. These barriers might be physical, such as a high traffic road, high tension power lines, or lack of walkways. Others might be psychological, like not perceiving that Oakton Community College is only ¼-mile walk south of Oakton Street along Lamon Avenue or that the IS+TP is as little as a 900-foot walk to the corner of Brown Street and Lincoln Avenue down Warren Street. Establishing these connections will bind together the neighborhood as a unique place. The broad bronze dashed arrows show new needed connections.

  Orient Development around Transit
Transit oriented development (TOD) refers to residential and commercial centers designed to maximize access by transit and non motorized transportation. A TOD neighborhood has a center with a rail or bus station, surrounded by relatively high-density development, with progressively lower-density spreading outwards. The highest building heights and concentration of jobs and residences are closest to the transit station, surrounded by several blocks of lower building heights, followed by townhouses and small-lot single-family residential, with larger-lot single-family housing located furthest away. For this plan, guides of about 2,000 feet (about a 10-minute walk) from rail station entrances for Oakton Station and the bus transfer stops at Oakton Street and Lincoln Avenue were used. This development pattern decreases car trips and increases trips on public transit, walking, or biking. The pink circles with T (train) and B (bus) represent transit hubs and the pink dashed lines show 2,000-foot distances from those hubs.

  Increase and Renew the Housing Stock
Appendix D - Multifamily Housing Study in the Comprehensive Plan identified serious obstacles to new housing investment in older multifamily residential areas, including major discrepancies in actual and permitted densities per acre, parking, and stormwater control. Without addressing these concerns housing stock will continue to age without the continued investment needed to maintain quality housing. Downtown 2020 reported that Downtown Skokie could absorb 800 to 1,600 additional housing units by 2020. Adding more residential units Downtown will support transit usage, decrease auto dependence, improve the retail base, and add to the excitement and liveliness of Downtown.

  Create a Healthy Retail Environment
Creating an environment that promotes retail uses benefits the entire community by providing jobs, goods, services, social interaction, and sales tax revenue. Downtown 2020 reported that Downtown Skokie could absorb 250,000 to 300,000 sq. ft. of new or redeveloped retail space, 75% of which will replace older, outdated space. This new retail would be supported in part by new employment and new housing throughout Sector A. Downtown 2020 also studied the current retail mix and recommended uses that should be encouraged, like promoting our ethnic diversity with ethnic groceries and restaurants, co-locating uses to strengthen Downtown activity generators, such as coffee shops, entertainment and other specialty food uses, and targeting other underrepresented uses. Commercial ground floor uses on “retail streets” must be reserved for retail and other service uses open to customers. Ground floor offices, automotive uses, and drive-throughs that cause activity gaps in pedestrian areas should be limited and, in some areas, prohibited. Upper story uses can be other commercial uses, like office or retail uses, or residences. The maroon dashed lines on street frontages show areas designated as "retail streets".

  Promote Job Creation
More people working Downtown increases the potential for purchasing goods and services, particularly during the day. The development of the IS+TP, which will contain up to 6,000 jobs, and other employment opportunities that arise will support retail and residential markets. To promote a healthy retail environment, non-retail employment locations that do not complement retail sales should be located above the first floor off of retail streets.

  Enhance Open Spaces
The Village should work towards increasing open spaces when opportunities arise, similar to the open spaces secured at the IS+TP and the pending purchase of a portion of the Union Pacific right-of-way for part of the Skokie Valley Trail, a multi-use recreational bike and pedestrian pathway that will eventually connect Skokie, Wilmette, Glenview, Northfield, and Northbrook. Other methods such as use of roofs for gardens and recreation, setting aside places for outdoor dining and public plazas, and review of current zoning requirements to add open space should be explored. The green dotted line represents the proposed location of the Skokie Valley Trail.

Keep the Pedestrian in Mind
With almost 10% of Skokie households reporting having no motorized vehicle in the 2000 census, attention needs to be given to pedestrian movement. Part of moving people is the physical environment in which they move. Design of sites, buildings, sidewalks, streets, lighting, and other amenities like plazas or outdoor dining areas affects the likelihood that people will walk in, through, or by a particular location. Some of these design features include locating buildings close to sidewalks, being able to look into commercial buildings through transparent glass at ground level, having scattered public spaces accessible and seen from sidewalks, limiting driveway curb cuts across public sidewalks, and prohibiting off-street parking in front of buildings and at intersection corners while encouraging on-street and behind-building parking. 

Support the Arts and Culture
Downtown Skokie hosts the annual Skokie Festival of Cultures, is home to the IMODS-sponsored Backlot Arts District, the newly renovated Skokie Theater live music venue, and the Skokie Farmers’ Market, and will be the site of new public arts installations funded through a new building permit fee. The Village will continue to support the arts, increase cultural events, and embrace and promote our cultural diversity.


 

 

LAND USE TYPES
Downtown has been divided into nine land use types. In each type, the use of land and the form of the buildings are described. Maximum heights and in some cases minimum heights are established. There are also three areas in which some flexibility is permitted. These land use types are not zoning, per se, but a guide to the preferred uses and building forms at each location. The pattern of land uses is based on TOD principles. The land use areas around the transit hubs are more intense closer to the hubs and less intense further from the hubs.

  Downtown Employment
This land use type includes well-designed buildings that are not along retail streets, generally north and south of Searle Parkway, integrating higher-intensity uses with publicly accessible open spaces near transit access. Similar to the current B6 Downtown Science and Technology zoning district, buildings can be up to 180 feet in height, but all development is subject to site plan approval by the Plan Commission and Village Board. Residential uses should be prohibited in these areas.

  Downtown Core Mixed-use
This land use type includes areas close to rapid transit hubs and employment centers. Buildings should be designed to promote walking and have a pedestrian orientation, with curb cuts on retail streets strongly discouraged. Ground floor uses on retail streets must be reserved for retail and other service uses open to customers. Upper story uses can be other commercial uses or residences. Similar to the current B5 Downtown zoning district, buildings in this area can be up to 156 feet in height, but must have a minimum of two usable floors of building along retail streets. Buildings over 45 feet tall are subject to site plan approval by the Plan Commission and Village Board. When possible, entire blocks should be designated to increase opportunities for good site and building design, conveniently located public parking, and open spaces.

  Transit Oriented Mixed-use
This land use type includes areas within 2,000 feet of rapid transit or adjacent to Downtown Core Mixed-use types. Buildings should be designed to promote walking and pedestrian orientation. Curb cuts are discouraged on retail streets. Ground floor uses on commercial streets must be reserved for retail and other service uses open to customers. Upper story uses can be other commercial uses or residences. Like the transit oriented developments in the current B3 Commercial zoning district, buildings can be up to 75 feet in height, but must have a minimum of two usable floors along retail streets. Buildings over 45 feet are subject to site plan approval by the Plan Commission and Village Board. When possible, entire blocks should be designated to increase opportunities for good site and building design, conveniently located public parking, and open spaces.

  Neighborhood Mixed-use
This land use type includes commercial areas adjacent to single-family districts that are not adjacent to Downtown Mixed-use areas. In these areas, buildings should be designed to promote walking and pedestrian orientation. Ground floor uses must be commercially used but not necessarily reserved for retail and other service uses open to customers. Upper story uses can be other commercial uses or residences. Buildings can be up to 39 feet in height, similar to uses in the Single-family Housing district.

  Transit Oriented Housing
This land use type includes higher-density housing adjacent to the Downtown Core or Transit Oriented Mixed-use types but not adjacent to a Single-family Housing district. Purely residential buildings, including multifamily and townhome dwellings, and institutional uses, such as schools and religious assembly, may be permitted. Additional public open spaces should be required for larger developments. Detached single-family dwellings are prohibited. Buildings can be up to 75 feet in height, similar to uses in Transit Oriented Mixed-uses. All buildings over 45 feet are subject to site plan approval by the Plan Commission and Village Board.

  Multifamily Housing
This land use type includes areas generally adjacent to Transit Oriented Mixed-use and Transit Oriented Housing areas with a lower height and density than in those areas. Purely residential buildings, including multifamily and townhome dwellings, and institutional uses, such as schools and religious assembly, may be permitted. Additional public open spaces are encouraged. Detached single-family dwellings are prohibited. Buildings can be up to 60 feet in height, similar to current planned developments in the R4 General residential zoning district.

  Combined Housing
This land use type includes areas generally adjacent to Single-family Housing districts as a transition between Single-family Housing and other districts. Purely residential buildings, including smaller multifamily, townhomes, and detached single-family dwellings, and institutional uses, such as schools and religious assembly, may be permitted. Additional public open spaces are encouraged. Buildings can be up to 45 feet in height, less than the 60-foot maximum allowed for planned developments in the R3 Two-family residential zoning district.

  Single-family Housing
This land use type includes areas generally reserved for detached single-family residences, but lower-density townhome residences may be allowed on larger sites with a special use permit for a planned development. Institutional uses such as schools and religious assembly may also be permitted. Additional public open spaces are encouraged. Buildings can be up to 39 feet in height for non-residential buildings like schools and religious assembly uses, less than the 60-foot maximum allowed for planned developments in R1 and R2 Single-family zoning districts, although lower heights for detached single-family residences would remain lower as in the current zoning.

  Parks and Open Space
This land use type includes existing public parks owned by the Village of Skokie and Skokie Park District, private spaces that will be open to the public at the IS+TP, as well as the Skokie Valley Trail. Additional parks and open spaces are highly encouraged. Policies and potential locations will be more formally developed in a future open space and environmental policy.

  Flexible Areas
There are three areas on the map where multiple use types might be compatible: Floral Avenue, Niles Avenue, and Madison/Elmwood. These areas are diagonally striped in the colors for the land use types that may be appropriate. The direction of development will depend on the market timing and the form of nearby development. For example, if the east side of Floral Avenue is redeveloped in a way that produces commercial activity, such as restaurants, shopping, or office uses, future use of the west side of Floral might include office uses or retail activity. Otherwise, residential uses may be more appropriate. Similarly, one way to connect Oakton Community College users to the retail uses north of the campus is to develop retail uses along Niles Avenue. If commercial development occurs, it should start at street intersections and be contiguous with other existing or planned commercial uses.


 

 

FUTURE ACTIONS
This 2020 Plan for Sector A: Downtown sets land use and policy guidelines so that more specific actions and details may be developed. Those future actions  include: 
 

Parking
Current policies for on-street, off-street, private, and public parking will be reviewed and recommendations made for amendments to the Village Code. Locations for public parking lots and garages will be considered.

Traffic Study
A new traffic study will be preformed that integrates the intersection and roadway improvements planned for the IS+TP with the future vehicular and pedestrian safety improvements needed to fully implementing this plan.

Open Space
Policies will be developed for allocation of future public and private open space, locations and distribution of public art, and incentives for environmentally friendly development practices.

Public Improvements
A public improvement plan will be developed that addresses new Downtown gateway elements, district identity signage, regional wayfinding signage, and streetscape improvements.

Design requirements
Commercial design requirements will be developed and appear