Des Plaines making business pitch for woodworkers, jewelers, potters downtown

Updated 6/12/2018 3:51 PM

If a woodworker had wanted to open a shop to build and sell cabinets in downtown Des Plaines just a few weeks ago, he or she would have had problems getting approval from the city.

Until a recent change to city code, small artisanal retail shops -- where owners manufacture goods such as jewelry, ceramics, stain-glass or other crafts -- were not allowed in commercial areas. Now city officials have created a way for these business owners to operate in commercial areas, especially downtown.

"We want to open our downtown and commercial corridors to artists, to makers," said Patrick Ainsworth, the city's economic development coordinator.

The city is a prime location for these types of businesses, Ainsworth said. He cited access to the Metra station, proximity to Chicago and population density as positives.

"I definitely see this being an emerging artist economy," Ainsworth said.

Under the new city ordinance, businesses with less than 2,500 square feet of space will be allowed to manufacture and sell products in commercial areas. Any larger business will have to get permission from the city.

The idea is to ensure the business is not an industrial-scale operation.

In addition to selling products, the businesses will be allowed to host small instructional classes.

The city has several rules to prevent the businesses from causing problems for nearby stores. They include equipping buildings with ventilation systems and other equipment to control dust, odor and debris.

Business owners would be eligible for some of the city's business assistance grants, including up to $5,000 for new awnings, $15,000 for interior build-outs of new businesses, and $20,000 for facade improvements.

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