On a warm summer evening, Jim and his wife, Nancy, stroll down bustling Oakton Street in Downtown Skokie, past inviting boutiques and diners eating al fresca along the parkway. They just left the Skokie Theater and are headed to the Village Inn for some pizza and a couple of beers before jumping back on the Skokie Swift (CTA Yellow Line) home. The two have lived in Skokie for about a decade and have enjoyed watching their downtown undergo an amazing transformation from a tired collection of underused buildings into a thriving central business district – one that boosts a world-class library, a newly opened rapid transit station, a large community college, and a high-tech research campus.
Gewalt Hamilton played an integral role in the revitalization efforts through its transportation and infrastructure improvements along Oakton Street. From needs analyses and planning to design and implementation, Gewalt Hamilton helped to transform Oakton Street into a beautiful, functional corridor that invites residents, students, commuters, and visitors to shop, dine and stay awhile Downtown. The fresh new streetscape along Oakton Street, in conjunction with the opening of the CTA Oakton Street Yellow Line station, is the foundation of Downtown that creates the energy and sense of place that continues to attract retailers, restaurants, services, and residents to the area.
Working closely with multiple Village departments, Gewalt Hamilton was tasked with identifying and designing improvements that would beautify and increase the economic vitality of the Downtown by enhancing the pedestrian environment and improving traffic flow and parking options. To this end, Gewalt Hamilton assisted the Village in preparing a comprehensive study of the central business district which included schematic design options, traffic simulation modeling, and estimation of implementation costs. In order to more thoroughly evaluate the impacts of various recommended improvements, Gewalt Hamilton then conducted an innovative “Road Diet” test over a two-week period. The test was an ingenious approach to test potential improvements without a long-term financial commitment. It involved temporary pavement markings and construction barricades to reduce travel lanes and measure changes to traffic volumes and travel times.
Using the results of the Road Diet test and an extensive public outreach effort, Gewalt Hamilton helped the Village navigate an intense, iterative process that vetted many alternates with stakeholders including regulatory agencies and various user groups. Gewalt Hamilton’s local insight, creative approach and technical expertise were invaluable to achieving the Village’s ambitious vision.
As improvements were being selected, Gewalt Hamilton prepared the topographic survey and conducted traffic signal warrant studies resulting in traffic signal and interconnect plans with pedestrian timers and EVP at six intersections. Gewalt Hamilton analyzed and prepared plans for modified access and traffic operations, additional on-street parking, landscaped medians, intersection bump-outs, high-profile crosswalks, wider sidewalks, and street lighting. Free public parking was added in municipal parking lots and on Downtown streets.
Gewalt Hamilton also prepared water main replacement plans to address water main breaks and accommodate the increase in demand anticipated to result from heightened Downtown activity. Gewalt Hamilton provided construction engineering services for all streetscape, parking and water main improvements, including exhaustive coordination with Village staff, committees, IDOT, businesses, residents, and contractors.
Gewalt Hamilton’s completion of the improvement project was on-time and has been well received with consistent increases in patronage of businesses and Oakton Street station ridership. The vibrancy of Downtown continues to invigorate Skokie’s economic engine and generate more tax dollars. With nearly 16,000 people working within one mile of downtown, 155,000 people living within 3 miles, and over 275,000 living within a ten minute drive, the revitalization of Downtown Skokie impacts many people and businesses.