Spot Check: What's Up with Downtown?

On Tuesday, October 13, 2015, after years of discussion, the Village Council officially committed to a Downtown Master Plan. Hired Teska & Associates.

Teska’s Task: Evaluate and consider enhancements to Winnetka's three business districts:  Downtown Elm Street, Hubbard Woods, and Indian Hill.

Teska’s deliverable: Recommend land use, development regulations, zoning, circulation, parking, urban design and potential new development.

 Teska’s price tag: $147,920.


  •  1999 – Plan Commission pens Comprehensive Plan. Admittedly absent, plan for commercial districts.
  • 2010 – Streetscape proposal to dress up downtown ‘86’d over cost concerns.
  • 2012 – Plan Commission revisits.  Recommends 2-step process. Urban Land Institute (ULI) Technical Assistance Panel (TAP), then Master Planning Process. Glen Ellyn, Wilmette, Highland Park, Lake Forest – all been there, done this. Usually, a 10-month process.
  • 2013 – Village Council authorizes Urban Land Institute to conduct TAP. Says downtown in need of help. Suggests raising height restriction on commercial buildings and lowering required number of parking spaces per business for starters. Village agrees. Zoning changes.
  • October 2015 – Teska hired. Begins fact gathering, community engagement. Chalkboards, workshops, a survey, vision statements, Idea Zone, and more. Under the microscope: who we are, where we go, how we get there, what we want.


No plan yet. Still fact-gathering. Promised comprehensive. Added two to team.

One table. Three legs. Spotlight: Teska’s Work Plan.


On April 19th, Steering Committee Chair, Meg Benson, reported to the VC, “we’re about half-way there.” According to the Overview Timeline from the Village’s April Newsletter, they’ve checked off Existing Conditions, Market Findings, District Visions, Parking and Circulation, and Redevelopment Opportunities. Next up, Infrastructure/Urban Design. Land Use/Regulations and Draft Plan/Review to go. Then they put it all together and call it The Plan. Draft. Review. Winnetka Defined.

Big Picture. Teska’s Workshops and Open Houses defined districts and ID’d development opportunities:

  • Downtown Elm – hub of downtown opportunity for more dining, pubs and nightlife.
  • Hubbard Woods – design district and gathering spot opportunity for family-friendly festivals and dining, and coffee houses.
  • Indian Hill – students, families and visitors’ opportunity for stores and amenities that cater to them.

Drilling down. In their 1,000-plus response flash survey, Village residents prioritized must have’s, would-likes, and why-nots:  

  • Outdoor dining – sidewalk patios
  • Landscaping – trees and planters
  • Lighting – pedestrian-scaled and ornate
  • Bike amenities – paths and parking
  • Parking
  • Street furniture
  • Pedestrian crossings
  • Welcome signs
  • Directional signage


Not as controversial as One Winnetka, not as timely as Stormwater Management. But Wilmette, Highland Park, Glenview, Glencoe, Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, etc., etc., etc. have gotten the joke and (admit it) are getting the good stores, the up-to-date amenities, the new energy, and the tax dollars that come with them. This is how they did that. You’ve got 4 months.

Steering Committee meetings are open to the public. Next one: Tuesday, May 31st, 7:00 PM, Village Hall. Open mic at end of every meeting. Don’t be shy.

  • Sign up – updates on announcements, news, and upcoming meetings.
  • Check out – the Idea Zone – share photos and ideas.
  • Stay up – Project News.
  • Connect – Questions, comments, concerns, insights. Mail Room.

Anything else you need to know? Ask a Trustee!