A Tale of TwoStreetscapes09-12-23 | Feature

A Tale of TwoStreetscapes

A Fresh, Clean, Well-Designed, Thoughtful Downtown
by Jodi Mariano, Principal Landscape Architect Teska Associates

On Chicago's North Shore, two villages, Wilmette and Winnetka (pictured), decided to upgrade their downtown streetscapes at about the same time. Both projects were eventually secured by landscape architecture firm Teska Associates, who then conducted public outreach and planning programs. Winnetka adopted their master streetscape and signage plan in 2018. Wilmette adopted their plan in 2019. The timelines for each planning process was approximately one year. Wilmette required the enhancement of 2,325 linear feet of commercial area and 4,590 linear feet of residential area. The total extent overseen by Teska in Winnetka was 3,450 linear feet of commercial streets. Work there included converting street parking spaces on the corners to widened bump out plazas with pavers, bollards, potted plants, benches, and waste receptacles.
In Wilmette, 3,625 linear feet of handcrafted concrete jointing was installed. The wood benches were made from reclaimed, fallen ash trees. Twelve varieties of native shrubs and perennials were planted including Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle, Geraniums, Black Eyed Susans and Virginia Bluebells.
4" x 8" clay pavers were installed throughout the project.
Remaking Veterans Plaza in Wilmette included 1,325 square feet of original clay brick, pavers that were reclaimed and reset, and 140 linear feet of new concrete planter curb. The project also included six 'Ashbery' bollard lights. Throughout the site, seventy-eight existing trees were protected.
Planter pots have a weathered finish and were provided by Wausau Tile.
In Wilmette, Parvin Clauss Sign Company fashioned and installed the archway, which was made of an aluminum panel and tubing with gold cutout letters and supported by fluted steel poles with decorative base covers. The streetlights, both pedestrian and vehicular were reclaimed, existing fixtures. Ten new trees were installed along with 232 cubic yards of structural soil that could extend tree life from 10 to 50 years according to the landscape architecture firm.
Wayfinding was very integral to the Winnetka improvements including this gateway identity sign that is 6' tall and 4' - 2" at its base. Other signs included business district directional, business kiosk, parking identity, parking directional and regulatory signs. Freestanding, pole-mounted signs were specified, and preferred, where site conditions allowed.
Plantings in the pots in Winnetka have a seasonal rotation - here in winter are redtwig stems and evergreen boughs. The vehicular streetlights (inset) are Valmont Industries poles.
This aerial view shows one of the enhanced streetscape amenity plazas that were enhanced at pre-existing corner bumpouts in downtown Wilmette. Strung across 14 festoon, tapered, fluted poles with clamshell bases throughout the project are 670 linear feet of LED string lights.
This is the updated Village Green Plaza and performance area in Wilmette. There were 1,094 native shrubs and 12 varieties of perennials installed such as these Allium (foreground), Echinacea or coneflowers and Liatris. Also planted around the site were Black Eyed Susans, Virginia Bluebells, Gayfeathers, Geraniums and Dwarf Bush Honeysuckles.

the past few years have been busy for Teska Associates' placemaking team. And there is nothing we love more than designing streetscapes with communities in our own backyard and watching places come to life with the most important
ingredient... people!

When it comes to placemaking and implementation, one thing we have learned is one size does not fit all. Two such examples are the recent downtown makeovers with the fine folks of Wilmette and Winnetka on Chicago's North Shore.

Like other Chicagoland communities, the villages of Winnetka and Wilmette have rallied to support their bustling business districts. These suburban downtowns include village halls, commuter train stations, locally owned shops and restaurants, mature neighborhoods, parks, and open spaces.

At the same time, each community has worked tirelessly to meet the challenges of a post-covid era, where public places are tasked to meet new demands, such as flexible parking arrangements, curbside pickups, expanded outdoor dining, and pickup windows.

Although each streetscape included a robust public outreach program and guidance by staff and elected officials, the built streetscapes for Wilmette and Winnetka - and the methods by which they were built - could not be
more different.

The downtown streetscape in this town received federal and state funding for construction costs.

Of the total downtown streetscape that measured 2,325 linear feet, 1,350 linear feet was for Wilmette Avenue and the other 975 linear feet was for Central Avenue's downtown portion. In addition, 4,590 linear feet of Central Avenue's residential area was also upgraded.

Scope of Work
For the Wilmette project, Teska was tasked with public outreach and then designing for underground utility work, roadway and sidewalk reconstruction, refurbishment of existing lighting, enhancements to the Village Green Plaza with its performance area, Veterans Park and corner bump out plazas.

The landscape architecture firm was also in charge of seeing that preexisting trees were protected, and specifying an all-native, understory plant list, new festoon lighting, site furnishings, gateway and wayfinding signage.

Preliminary engineering of the project took place between 2016 - 2018. The final engineering lasted from 2019 to 2020. TranSystems, Bollinger Lach and Associates and RHMG were the
engineering firms.
Construction began in 2020 and was completed in 2021. The cost of construction was around $10 million or $1,446 per linear foot when averaged between the downtown and residential areas.

As for the results, Mike Braiman, the village manager of the Village of Wilmette said, "Our community loves the new streetscape - the project has led to increased pride and vibrancy in our downtown and has helped differentiate Wilmette as an outstanding place to spend time with friends and family. The collaborative planning approach between residents, consultants and village staff has created something special and is spurring further ideas as to how we can support placemaking and community-building in our village."

This town budgeted local resources for the upgrades and constructed their streetscapes over multiple phases. The first phase of the project was 600 linear feet of North Chestnut Avenue. Phase two was work on West Elm Street, which encompassed 600 linear feet. Lincoln Avenue, measuring 550 linear feet, was the next phase.
The final phase, which includes South Chestnut Street, Moffat Mall, Village Hall Parking and portions of Spruce Street and Elm Street, was completed in 2022.

Scope of Work
Teska Associates once again conducted public outreach. Design work for the Winnetka Village project included the underground utilities, roadway and sidewalk
reconstruction and upgrades to the corner bump out plazas.

New vehicular and pedestrian lighting was specified along with site furnishings, gateway and wayfinding signage and plantings including those in public parking lots.

Developing the streetscape master plan started in 2017 and was finished the following year. Both Phase 1 (North Chestnut Ave) and Phase 2 (West Elm Street) were completed between 2019 and 2020. Phase 3 of the project (Lincoln Ave) began in 2020 and completed in 2021.

Currently in construction is Phase 4 (South Chestnut Street / Spruce Street / Elm Street / Moffat Mall / Village Hall Parking). Construction costs for the entire project are pegged at $7.23 million, which comes out to $2,095 per linear foot.

Winnetka Village president, Chris Rintz, sang the praises of the project in a Record North Shore article in 2021.

"A lot of the newer families that are moving into this community see what we're doing and it becomes another value add - to add a fresh, clean, well-designed, thoughtful downtown really has been a very positive thing."