Elmhurst is rubbing its magic lamp and envisioning its future. The city has been compiling input from residents and businesses to generate ideas and plans about what the downtown should look like, and what role it should play, in the next 10 years.

The Downtown Plan was unveiled to the public last Thursday, Jan. 7. The plan will act as a road map guiding policies, planning and zoning in the coming years on issues such as land use, parking and circulation. The Plan seeks to answer the overarching question, “What should our Downtown look like in 10 years and how do we get there?”

The last comprehensive plan was done in 1990, with updates put in place every few years, most recently in 2006. But with the post-recession economy gaining strength and hot-button issues such as building height growing in concern, city leaders wanted to address new issues.

The city held multiple workshops, submitted hundreds of questions, and conducted dozens of interviews and focus groups before coming up with the top community issues for Downtown Elmhurst. Those priorities are:

  • Improving the business climate. Issues include regulatory practices, and retail competition from neighboring malls and shopping districts.
  • Diversifying the types of businesses. Focus on improving the ratio of restaurants, entertainment opportunities and variety of shops. Particular emphasis to be placed on attracting arts and entertainment activities.
  • Sprucing up the Downtown. Install more public spaces, greenery, outdoor dining and art.
  • Reducing vacancy in Downtown. Investigate parcel consolidation and redeveloping buildings with high rent to square footage ratios and those in need of repair and upkeep.
  • Connecting with other institutions. Connect Downtown with Elmhurst Public Library, Wilder Park, Elmhurst College, Elmhurst Art Museum and Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art.
  • Improving the parking situation. Implement a clearer, more coordinated strategy for customer, employees and tourists.
  • Enhancing pedestrian friendliness and connectivity. Better pedestrian access across the rail tracks, improved tunnel and better physical connections between Downtown businesses.
  • Establishing an identity. Determine whether city should be a local or regional destination and what sets it apart from other local suburban downtowns.