Crystal Lake City Council approves strategic plan for development around train stations meant to make area more walkable, market-friendly

Some Historical Preservation Commission members have concerns with some aspects of plan, according to member who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting

Crystal Lake’s City Council approved a strategic plan for redevelopment centered around its two train stations at its meeting Tuesday night.

Meant to guide future development strategies and establish a direction for pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle infrastructure, the plan includes a number of suggestions for development, redevelopment and amenities that could be added to the area, as previously reported by the Northwest Herald.

However, many of the members of Crystal Lake’s Historic Preservation Commission were concerned about the plan – specifically, the suggestions for developments on Minnie Street/Walkup, Robert Wyman, a member of Crystal Lake’s Historic Preservation Commission, told council members at Tuesday’s meeting.

“There are historical homes and carriage houses on the east side of the triangle on Minnie Street, which would be torn down,” Wyman said. “In addition to this, the buildings that would be put up per the plan now would not match the neighborhood, which would partially bring down home values.”

Crystal Lake has one train station downtown operated by the city and another on Pingree Road operated by Metra.

City staff pointed out that none of the suggestions from the plan are set in stone. None of the developments or redevelopments suggested in it were officially approved at Tuesday’s meeting, City Planner Elizabeth Maxwell said.

“There is no plan that the city has reviewed or looked at for any demolition on that property,” Maxwell said.

Instead, the strategic plan is a “guiding document,” Community Development Director Katie Cowlin said, meant to help give staff recommendations on items to address in the city code, ways to incorporate pedestrian and bicycle level designs for redevelopment at the key properties, and housing types that would meet market demands.

According to the plan’s recommendations, three sites where the city should target redevelopment are Walkup Avenue and Minnie and Woodstock streets; Main and Brink streets; and the Main Street crossing at the Pingree Road station area.

Crystal Lake should encourage additional development of single-family attached homes in the eastern side of Walkup Avenue between Woodstock and Grant streets and in the southern end of East Crystal Lake Avenue and North Main Street in the Crystal Lake Station Area, according to the plan. Multi-family developments should be concentrated within downtown Crystal Lake along the eastern edge of Walkup Avenue between Crystal Lake Avenue and Woodstock Street and the Main Street crossing site.

A festival street, with special streetscape improvements, lighting, and movable bollards, as well as outdoor seating, could generate additional social gathering places, according to the plan.

Wyman said during the meeting that going forward, the commission would appreciate more involvement from members of the Historic Preservation Commission in the project. Diana Kenney, who is part of the Historic Preservation Commission, was on the steering committee for the plan, although Wyman added that she also was on it as the Executive Director for Downtown Crystal Lake.

“We want to work with the city,” Wyman said after the meeting. “We know some things are going to have to be lost, we understand that. But we also understand that we need to preserve what we can preserve.”

Maxwell said any changes to buildings considered historical landmarks would go to the Historic Preservation Commission for consideration.

Any plans for redevelopment would still have to go to the Planning and Zoning Commission, then the City Council for final action, she said.

Cassie Buchman

Cassie Buchman

I cover Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Cary, Fox River Grove, Prairie Grove and Oakwood Hills for the Northwest Herald.