Riverside residents will get their first official look at the village’s plan for overhauling East Burlington Street in the downtown area next week at a town hall meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Riverside Township Hall, 27 Riverside Road.
The latest version of the plan comes after about four rounds of revisions by Christopher B. Burke Engineering Ltd., the village’s engineering firm, which has assigned an architect to the project. The village also hired Gibbs Planning Group, an urban planning consulting firm, to review Burke’s plans.
It’s a far cry from the design officials hauled out in August to show several advisory commissions and the chamber of commerce.
“I’m much more pleased with it,” said Village President Ben Sells. “We’ve had a lot of input from a lot of places, but it doesn’t have the look of being designed by a committee. It’s gotten better and better as it’s worked its way into the place it is now.”
Sells and the engineering firm took to heart one particular criticism of the earlier plan — that it wasn’t distinctively “Riverside.” Large precast concrete planters and other elements gave the plan a generic suburban feel.
The plan that will be unveiled next week includes a fewer larger above-ground planters, but the precast concrete has been replaced by limestone and by forms and a color palette that take their cues from the historic water tower.
Sidewalks are shown to be dark brick pavers laid in a herring-bone pattern — an element that will require a change in the village’s municipal code, which does not allow such materials for sidewalks in the downtown area — and the sidewalk design is unified by a curvilinear concrete ribbon that will wind its way down the block.
“It’s definitely going to be uniquely Riverside in a way that’ll make people feel comfortable downtown,” said Sonya Abt, community development director for the village of Riverside.
The earlier plan also widened the south sidewalk, eliminating all street parking on the south side of East Burlington Street, something that received quite a bit of push back from the business community.
The latest plan restores 15 parking spots on the south side of the street, though it does eliminate the parking space on the south side between Longcommon Road and the entrance to the parking lot west of Riverside Bank.
“It became more and more obvious that we couldn’t afford to do that,” said Sells.
Another new element is improving an overgrown area just east of 39 E. Burlington St., turning it into a place that could accommodate outdoor dining in the future.
At the Nov. 12 town hall meeting, representatives from Burke Engineering will present the plan and will display perspective drawings for residents. Sample materials will also be available to get a sense of materials and colors.
There will also be an opportunity for residents to provide input and ask questions of village officials and the project’s designers. As a result, the plan may receive more tweaks after the town hall meeting. However, plans are to begin final construction drawings soon in order to keep the project on target for completion next summer.
Sells said the village would like to be able to get on the Illinois Department of Transportation’s bid solicitation for April 2015. That way, he said, work could begin soon after the July 4 celebration.
Officials are targeting November 2015 for completion.
In addition to the improvements to the sidewalks and parkways on the north and south sides of East Burlington Street, the roadway itself will be repaved next summer, which means it’ll be a dusty and possibly difficult summer for businesses in the downtown area.
The village in April received a $754,660 Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant for the streetscape work, which cover about 80 percent of the total cost for the improvements. Separately, Riverside in 2013 received a separate grant to help pay for the resurfacing of Burlington Street, from Longcommon Road to Harlem Avenue.