After success last year, Mundelein to again offer outdoor dining on Park Street
Having found success last year, Mundelein officials plan to again close a block of Park Street to automobile traffic during warmer months so restaurants there can have more space for outdoor dining.
The proposal focuses on Park Street between Route 45 and an alley to the east. The strip -- at the heart of the downtown area -- is home to Tina G's, Park Street Restaurant and Area Coffee. A couple of businesses that aren't restaurants are on the block, too.
The roadway was converted to an outdoor dining area from May to December last year to ease those businesses' financial struggles during the COVID-19 crisis. The change allowed socially distanced dining, musical performances and other gatherings.
The village contributed picnic tables to the effort.
"It turned out to be a huge hit over the summer," Mayor Steve Lentz said. "If there is any silver lining to the COVID crisis, then this is it."
Residents and business owners have requested that the Park Street dining area return, Village Planner Colleen Malec told the village board during a public presentation in late January.
Officials hope a regular dining area on Park will create a more defined vision of downtown Mundelein and give people another reason to visit.
"It's a fantastic idea," Trustee Ray Semple said this week. "(It will) benefit surrounding businesses in addition to those directly adjacent to Park Street."
As part of the plan, portable barriers and planters will be used to keep cars from driving onto the block. Directional signs and promotional banners are planned, too.
A decorative archway over Park Street and an overhead light array could be added later.
"Something like that would really catch your eye from (Route) 45 and really let people know that downtown Mundelein is a fun place to be," Malec said of the lights.
As a somewhat related project, officials are considering buying an empty lot at 22 E. Park St., just east of Area Coffee. If the Park Street dining plan happens, the grassy lot could be used for more seating, as a space for food trucks or a play area for kids, among other possibilities, officials said.
"(That lot) fits nicely in with the overall plan," Semple said.
Trustee Dawn Abernathy digs the Park Street proposal, too, saying it will help create "a real space for people to come and gather." But she expressed concerns about the cost and the lack of formal plans.
Village Administrator Eric Guenther on Monday said a consultant will be hired to develop those plans, which pleased Abernathy and other trustees.
The board initially approved spending up to $300,000 on the improvements, pending the sale of a decommissioned Mundelein water treatment facility in Vernon Hills to Lake County. That land deal is expected to generate enough cash for the Park Street work.
But on Monday, Guenther revealed that sale might not happen until May or June, which would mean the Park Street work would be delayed until at least the summer.
So, trustees voted 5-1 to revise their decision and give Guenther and his team $150,000 to get started on the Park Street project.
Trustee Robin Meier, who supported setting aside $300,000 as long as the land-sale stipulation was in place, was the lone objector.
Wheaton, St. Charles and Arlington Heights were among the other suburbs that created outdoor dining areas on public streets last year because of the pandemic.
You can learn more about Mundelein's plan, share comments or ask questions at mundelein.org/community/park-street-closure-concept.