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Architect says Lake Zurich needs to stay quaint
By Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 6/10/2008 12:03 AM

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Urban planning and design were the oft-repeated buzz words of the night, but Lake Zurich's new architects shared a vision for downtown Monday that was far more simple.

The village needs to maintain its historic charm, said representatives of Torti Gallas & Partners hired to revise the village's master downtown redevelopment plan.

"The village did a great job of not getting totally swallowed up by sprawl," architect John Torti said. "There's still a framework of a very identifiable village. There is certain character, DNA, that one could trace and I'm guessing one would like to keep and reinforce. Midwest has its own culture of really great village, small town architecture and we could code that. The place does need a look and continuity as it fills and revitalizes."

It was the first in a series of meetings that will be held this week to generate ideas for reviving the stalled revitalization project. The group will seek input from residents, village staff and officials, community business leaders and property owners on how to move the project forward.

There has not been any movement in redevelopment in the past year.

The architects will review everything from building heights and street configurations to density and the mix of residential condominiums versus commercial and retail development in the master plan. They will also be developing new architectural standards and design guidelines.

Village Trustee Jim Johnson said the architects have a blank slate to work with, but also laid out some of the obstacles ahead including not having a train station in town and competition with the Deer Park Town Center sucking up a lot of the retail in the area.

"If you go into downtown Lake Zurich right now, there's not much salvageable architecture," Johnson said. "We don't want to be urban Palatine, Mount Prospect or Arlington Heights. I think we need to have another theme, another concept whether it's alpine, whether it's turn of the century, something with appeal."

Resident Claudette Dyback asked village officials to take their time and not be too hasty in revising the master plan.

"This is so utterly important, what's the rush?" she asked.

Lake Zurich Mayor John Tolomei said the revitalization project has been stalled long enough.

"We want to get something done and what's been killing us is the fact that we weren't getting anything done," Tolomei said. "We just didn't want to wait any longer."

The original master plan was created roughly eight years ago. It calls for razing and rebuilding nearly all existing structures along both sides of Main Street from Old Rand Road west to Lake Street. They were to be replaced with two- to five-story buildings with ground-level retail and condominiums/offices above. The plan extends to other parts of downtown in later phases of redevelopment. In revising the document, officials will now consider the impact of any future development that may occur outside the immediate downtown area.

That includes creating several new gateways into downtown, Torti said.

"The land along the bypass will become the new face of the town as that gets developed," Torti said. "That face is most likely not going to be quaint and charming...maybe it will. The beginning of the district called the downtown, the hometown, is an important piece."

Torti said the village needs to create more public spaces in downtown and a pedestrian-friendly environment along Main Street. That includes reducing the curb radius of street corners so motorists can't make fast turns at 30 to 40 mph.

"The efforts that have been made with the (Route 22) bypass seem to only be partially working," Torti said. "In the village, automobiles are king and people are not."

A draft of the revised master redevelopment plan is expected to be completed by September when it will be reviewed by the village board.

The public can drop in on master plan work sessions from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at village hall, 70 E. Main St. Space is limited. Public presentations on master plan revisions are 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and 3 to 5 p.m. Friday at the Lake Zurich Police Station, 200 Mohawk Trail.

Residents will soon be able to submit comments online through a link on the village Web site, www.volz.org. It will link to a new Web site still under construction for the master plan revision work.

"Nobody is precluded from commenting," village Trustee Tom Poynton said. "All of you that are for, against, whatever the case may be, put your input in. We need to hear it all."