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What to Do About Downtown Northbrook?

Meadow Shopping Plaza has been the biggest blight in downtown Northbrook. The former Walgreens space is leased out until 2024. The owners have zero financial incentive to rent that empty space.

The Northbrook Downtown Development Plan is out and has been presented to the steering committee. Jennifer Fisher of Northbrook Patch attended the steering committee meeting on Wednesday and .’ This plan will be brought to the Northbrook Village Board at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, February 21st at 7:30.

The Plan was created with a grant from the RTA and an additional $25,000 was contributed by the Village of Northbrook. When I was on the Village Board, I actually voted against the $25,000 contribution to put towards this plan. I felt that it could potentially be just another plan that would be put on a shelf and ignored. I didn’t see how the village or its residents would be able to implement and follow through. There has never been a lack of desire in Northbrook to revitalize the downtown. There has been the inability to follow through. And in my opinion, one of the main reasons there has been an inability to follow through has to be firmly placed at the feet of the owners of the Meadow Shopping Center, Heitman Properties.

I am willing to say that I don’t know the ‘behind the scenes’ of Heitman Properties’ relationship with the village, but I do know what I have experienced first-hand from living in Northbrook for 36 years. And that is that Heitman Properties has not put forth any effort or desire to improve their development or the town that they have benefited from for so many years.

Meadow Shopping Plaza has been the biggest blight in downtown Northbrook. The former Walgreens space is leased out until 2024. This space could be empty for TWELVE more years. The owners have zero financial incentive to rent that empty space. They need to become actively involved in making this a town we are all proud of.

We might be talking about these same exact issues in 2024; your children will be off and married, and we will still be complaining about deteriorated awnings and a pothole-filled parking lot.

So what is going to propel this town forward? Is it another ‘plan’ that the village creates? Is it another heated discussion about eminent domain? Is it tax increment financing? Is it more complaining from residents that our downtown is the worst downtown out of all the North Shore communities?

The real, and only way, that this town is going to move forward is by getting each of you involved. If you have a complaint, then don’t just complain. Get involved. Attend the board meetings and review the plan. Form a local group to help move this issue forward. Talk to your neighbors about it. Make your voice heard and post your comments online. Write to the editors of the local papers.

We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines any more. Downtown Northbrook directly affects our property values. It affects our community spirit.

As a real estate agent, I know for a fact that Northbrook has lost new home buyers moving from the city specifically because of our downtown.  It’s time to show Heitman Properties that it is different this time; the residents are serious and this Village Board is serious. From this point forward, we only have ourselves to blame. We know what the problems are, now we need to create the solutions.

Join my GET INVOLVED NORTHBROOK Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Get-Involved-Northbrook/118914154790134 for updates on the Northbrook plan. Post your comments and take an active role in making this a town that you are proud to live in.

Kati Spaniak is a 36-year resident of Northbrook, a former Northbrook Village Trustee and a real estate broker with @properties focusing specifically on real estate in Northbrook.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Swenk February 08, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Bakeries and theaters are lovely, but the town needs a major renovation, not a little nip-and-tuck. More trees in the parking lot? Really?? A few years ago, the big event was the laying of brick pavers in front of Northbrook Garage and the debate over new light fixtures on downtown street corners. Please find a single resident who raced into town because of brick pavers and light fixtures. Noticed today the little banners on those downtown light fixtures, 'Live! Shop! Dine!' Would love to. Where? How did we fall so far behind our neighboring communities? Deerfield, Highland Park, Glencoe, Winnetka, Glenview...fantastic shops and restaurants, true community destinations. Northbrook? We sure have a lot of banks. I don't know the answer, and I do appreciate the complexity of the situation. But like many residents, I will continue to hope the leadership of our community is committed to finding real solutions, not worthless cosmetic repairs that serve no one.
Theodore L. Casey February 10, 2012 at 05:31 PM
As a 21 year resident of Northbrook, with other family here for years longer, I have witnessed the deteriation of the Downtown Area, while also seeing "rebirths" of areas such as downtown Evanston and Highland Park. I agree with Shari Wenk's well thought out comment above, and would support a major renovation, but I see the wisdom in Kati Byrne Spaniak's concern that businesses will need to see a major committment from the people and the government of Northbrook before they will invest here. I remember the rally at Glenbrook North to protest when there were controversial renovation plans along Shermer for the Cypress, White Printing, and the Northbrook Garage, and that was truly democracy in action! Unfortunately, the fervor faded as time passed, and although we still have the Landmark, other businesses along Shermer were lost. Caribou Coffee is a step in the right direction, but the key words in all the comments above are "major renovations". An Anchor company is needed that will attract other businesses, and, most of all, support from all concerned Northbrook citizens! Kati, thank you for putting into print the thoughts of many, many Northbrook families that pass along Cherry, Meadow, and Shermer every day and wonder "what happened to Northbrook and why"?
Kati Byrne Spaniak February 10, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Theodore, Thanks for the encouraging comments! While many people feel the same way we do, I am finding there aren't as many people who may have the time (or the want) to devote to this issue. What I am looking for are a few good leaders in Northbrook who want to help move these issues forward. Anyone care to share their leadership???
Kati Byrne Spaniak February 10, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Save the chickens!!!
Jillian Miller February 24, 2012 at 04:17 PM
The former Walgreens space is still being leased by the Walgreens corporation for training purposes. I have a family member who has worked in the downtown Northrbrook store for several years and moved to the new one with everyone else. They told me this information. We, as a family, have lived in Northbrook for 42 years. As for replacing the Northbrook Garage with a Caribou Coffee and numerous empty storefronts, it's an eyesore and a demolition of Northbrook's history.I live in a near suburb now, but frequently come to Northbrook to visit family. I have been horrified at the changes that have been happening. I understand towns need revenues, but whoring itself out is not the best way. Not much thrives in Northbrook because of conflict of interest. There are many that would like to see it become a larger, more financially lucrative town. Others would like to see it keep it's small town charm, forgetting the actual size of the village now. There is no easy solution. Whatever is done, lets just hope it's done with taste and good conscience.

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