Visual improvements key to revitalization
Rolling Meadows, Ill. New suburban malls and superstores, in conjunction with social and demographic changes, had hastened the decline of the city’s downtown. In an effort to breathe new life into the downtown area and increase its popularity, the city undertook a revitalization program that included visual improvements, construction and improved lighting.
As Rolling Meadows Mayor Thomas Menzel saw it, the downtown revitalization plan was “the first major step in creating an identity for the inner core of our city.” In November 1993, the city council adopted the Central Business District revitalization plan, which emphasized the importance of enhancing the physical attractiveness of the downtown area.
The plan detailed important visual enhancements, including updating and widening the main thoroughfare, implementing streetscape improvements, enhancing parks with plantings and other improvements, and constructing bike paths. New signage, play areas, park benches, bike racks, drinking fountains and lighting also will be added or enhanced.
In February 1995, the city received approval for more than $3 million in grants from the federal and state governments, and revitalization began. It chose Rolf C. Campbell & Associates, Lake Bluff, Ill., for its construction needs.
Construction began that summer when the city widened Kirchoff Road, Rolling Meadows’ “Main Street.” Downtown revitalization was followed by construction of the bike path the following year.
Next, the city council took a significant risk by coordinating a major private development downtown. In September 1996, it negotiated a $750,000 agreement to purchase land for the development.
The city forged partnerships with Illinois-based Harris Bank and Kimball Hill Homes (the company that built most of the homes in Rolling Meadows in the 1950s and 1960s) to develop the property. Kimball Hill would create a 128-unit community of mid-rise condominium homes on the site, and Harris Bank would construct its new 16,000-square foot headquarters building on an adjacent parcel.
“The city’s challenges included monitoring and leading these complex development projects through the planning process; removing hazardous materials and an underground oil tank a supermarket had left behind; negotiating parking, site access and cross easements; and negotiating the termination of leases with remaining tenants in the shopping center,” Menzel says.
As the Kimball Hill/Harris development neared completion, city planners turned their attention to the crown jewel of downtown revitalization: a carillon bell tower. The $125,000 carillon project, scheduled for completion later this year, is being funded entirely through private donations. “The carillon provides an opportunity for businesses, community organizations and residents to celebrate the collaborative partnerships that set our community apart from others,” Menzel says.