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Planning experts gather in Lincolnwood to assess Devon redevelopment

LINCOLNWOOD — A panel of urban planning experts gathered data in Lincolnwood this week to assess the redevelopment potential of Devon Avenue.

A grant awarded to the village by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s (CMAP) Local Technical Assistance Program has provided the benefit of third-party expert advice on the matter.

Village officials hope the report, which will be released next month, will provide some insight into what projects should be funded to help attract commercial development to the obsolete land area, which is the focus of the proposed Devon-Lincoln tax increment financing district (TIF).

The village decided earlier this year to help stimulate development in the economically-depressed area along the north side of Devon Avenue, between McCormick Boulevard and Proesel Avenue, by pushing for a new TIF. But local taxing bodies have resisted the idea.

Village officials have postponed further steps to secure the new TIF while awaiting recommendations from the report.

During the condensed two-day study Sept. 10 and 11, a group of plan experts affiliated with the Urban Land Institute of Chicago—a non-profit network of professionals who advocate for responsible land use—held a roundtable discussion to gather public opinion about the land area before starting work the second day to analyze the swath of land itself.

About 30 people from the community attended the roundtable Sept. 10 with the panel of experts, which Urban Land Institute of Chicago chair John Mays said was intended to gather residents’ perception of the street and of the problem itself.

“The roundtable doesn’t necessarily control our decision, but we’re only here for two days and these people live here, so we want to look at what’s important to them,” Mays said.

In three weeks, the Urban Land Institute will present a public report with a recommendation for the best uses of the land, taking different aspects of the corridor into consideration, including the market for commercial redevelopment, the impact streetscaping could have, and how to take advantage of nearby pedestrian transportation routes like the North Shore Channel Trail.

“We hand-selected a panel of experts from the transportation, architect and design and land development fields who study what we think the market will allow hypothetically, and whether making the street look prettier will help commercial development,” Mays said. “Then we sit down for seven hours together and approach it like a business proposal, and then turn it into a recommendation.”

Other metropolitan municipalities like Hanover Park have sought the Urban Land Institute’s help in the past with similar land development projects.

“Because you have a diverse range of experts at the table all at once, there’s a much stronger output,” said Cindy McSherry, executive director of the Urban Planning League of Chicago. “Ninety-five percent of the communities we’ve worked with have adopted recommendations from us.”

During the Sept. 3 village board meeting, Village Manager Tim Wiberg said the Urban Land Institute’s job wasn’t to look at the appropriateness of the proposed Devon-Lincoln TIF itself, but rather to weigh the corridor’s potential for redevelopment.

“Their concern isn’t the proposed TIF District, but they may come back to the village recommending certain land use changes or planning issues,” Wiberg said.

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