A Corridor Plan for Lincolnwood-Devon Avenue
Update: The project was completed in February 2014.
Located on the northern border of Chicago, Lincolnwood is a diverse community surrounded by vibrant ethnic neighborhoods. In partnership with the City of Chicago, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Chicago led a Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) for a six-block corridor on Devon Avenue. While once a vibrant stretch of retail, the corridor has declined in recent years. Two long-time retail businesses that were a main draw for the area — Smart Jewelers and Avenue Fashions — moved in recent years to follow their customer base north. Their departure left a void and drained significant energy from the strip, making it hard to attract new retail. Currently, more than 25 percent of the storefronts in the corridor are vacant. A new business that was slated for the highly visible northwest corner of Devon and McCormick has halted construction midstream because of financing issues, leaving the impression that retail in the area is struggling.
In September 2013, ULI Chicago convened a panel of experts to provide technical assistance to the Village and the City by developing realistic, implementable strategies to address the issues along Devon Avenue. The ten-member panel met over two days and included experts from a variety of fields including transportation planning, real estate redevelopment, sustainable design, and landscape design.
In advance of the TAP, all panelists reviewed detailed background briefing material provided by the CMAP, ULI Chicago, and the Village of Lincolnwood. During the two day panel, its members toured the study area, heard from representatives for City of Chicago and Village of Lincolnwood, and met with 40 area stakeholders, including residents and business owners. Using this information, the panelists worked together to develop several near-term and long-term strategies to rejuvenate the study area.
The panel's recommendations to address the questions posed by the Village and the City focus primarily on
- Redevelopment opportunities
- Safety and access transportation improvements
- Streetscape enhancements
The Village has several strengths to capitalize on, including its location, diverse demographics, high median income, strong retail base, and good fiscal health. The potential for the study area is limited by socioeconomic realities, such as its aging population and the existence of competitive retail in other parts of Lincolnwood. Challenging retail conditions such as smaller lots, limited parking, and a small alleyway shared with the single-family residential neighborhoods are also problematic.
To restore the corridor's vitality, the Village must adapt to demographic changes, the evolving retail landscape, and the physical constraints of the corridor. Additionally, the Village and the City must continue their collaboration to ensure that future developments and improvements create a more cohesive and a safer experience for all users along the corridor.
Swasti Shah, ULI Chicago Director of Community Engagement (email@example.com or 773-549-4972)