Idea Zone

Use the form below to share your ideas on Winnetka’s streetscape and signage!  What do you love? What could be improved? What would you like to see? Share comments and upload photos today!



Downtown Streetscape + Signage Plan Public Comments

We would love to install a commercial LED panel with town updates or advertisements! Or an interactive panel with a map that has a touchscreen and visitors could access information about all of the local attraction and businesses.

This may be not exactly possible, but when I’m downtown, the Elm street bridge is kind of a divider between the 2 sides of downtown. Has it ever been considered to effectively widen or add to the bridge structure (or build to connect to it) to create enough space of small stores/shops on the sides of the bridge? Envision lining the bridge a Starbucks or other coffee shop, small clothing retailer, small bookstore, a small restaurant etc. It would really “center” downtown together along with offering more of Metra hub that has a tighter urban feel. The One Winnetka development will add to the experience too.

Response: Thanks for your comment and we couldn’t agree more that improved connections are much needed between east and west Downtown areas. At Elm Street in particular, the streetscape plan is exploring options to widen the sidewalk and add other design enhancements that can improve the pedestrian walk between east and west. Please stay involved and thanks again!

Overall theme — Provide safer ped/bike environment. Looks like the plan certainly hints at this, let’s be sure to do something about it. Thus, erring on redundancy …
1. Elm — Redefine GB corridor and Oak, Elm, Spruce, Pine intersections to provide more ped/bike protection and visibility. More bump outs and traffic calming better on this speedway. Spruce and Elm intersections are particularly goofy. Drive through after it snows to see the actual traffic patterns. Lots of room for ped/bike safety islands and peninsulas.
2. HW — Further activate the park and create a safer ped/bike environment by converting Gage and Merrill to two way streets, and closing Tower Ct in front of Metra station to everyday traffic. Move Gage traffic light to Merrill? Signal each intersection?!? This was part of HWP masterplan but was curtailed by Village. Now is the time to reconsider.
Current Tower/GB signal timing is slow (which leads to increased traffic in neighborhoods). Need to amend while creating safer ped/bike crossings.

Response: Thank you for the comment. The focus of this streetscape study is the Elm Street Business District. However your comments regarding Hubbard Woods and Tower are also noted and will be forwarded to the Village for future planning efforts. Please stay involved!

Downtown Master Plan Public Comments

Thanks for all the great ideas, Winnetka!  The comment period for the Winnetka Downtown Master Plan is now closed; all comments received are showcased below.  Please submit ideas on Winnetka’s Streetscape + Signage Plan using the form above. 

  • I was raised in Winnetka and moved when I was 28 to California to work in the Silicon Valley. I’m back now and I always thought that the changing room at Elder Lane Beach would be a great spot to have small grill. Serve hot dogs, hamburger’s, cold sandwich’s and soda, water, cold beer and wine. Offer items for the beach, sunscreen etc.. Just a thought.
  • Three words, gourmet, gourmet, gourmet. Northbrook has JarBar opening soon. Something with a trendy concept. Lakeview has Left Coast on Lincoln. PLEASE no chains. We had The Gap in HW that closed. No Panera. Winnetka deserves better.
  • I wish we had a grocery, with great ready to heat meals, great products and fresh produce, friendly staff, and easy to park and get in and out, and not a bad place to run into friends and acquaintences. Oh, actually we have that, and it’s great. It’s called The Grand. Other good groceries also, Lakeside, and Mrs Greens, It’s just more convenient car access at the Grand. Perhaps when i hire a housekeeper with more time than I they will have time to stop at the other two stores.
  • Are you or your parents going to “downsize” your residence to live over a retail store? I don’t think so. “Mixed use”, combining retail and residential is an “oversold” and inappropriate remedy to this specific issue identified in the master plan.
  • I believe that Winnetka needs to attract a few established stores/venues to either future commercial development or an existing one. Venues could be: Lululemon, Lucy, BCBG, Anthropology, Joe’s, Baby Gap, Boden, etc. May be these stores can be offered some incentives in rent or taxes?
  • Is there a way that a fountain could be incorporated? (Or fix the one just east of the post office). I’m thinking this would be a fun gathering place for families, especially those with young children. Kids would like to throw coins into it (and maybe that money could be collected and used to enhancements of parks in Winnetka or something kid-friendly like that). It just seems like a simple and nice idea to incorporate.
  • I second the idea of the Fells clothing site being a great place for different meal options – family friendly – three different levels
  • A coffee shop at Indian Hill
    dog beach is great as it is
    more diverse housing options
    figure out how to make rent economical for independent shops
  • It would be so great to have a coffee shop in the Indian Hill area. With the train stop and New Trier (not to mention the neighborhood), I’m sure it would attract alot of business. Also, the dining scene in Winnetka could really use a boost. We usually go out to Wilmette or Evanston if we are going to dinner I’d love to patronage a Winnetka estabilishment however there just isn’t anything all that interesting or great (ethnic food would be fabulous). (Although the new Stacked and Folded is a wonderful addition).
  • I would love to see our neighborhood maintain its integrity of the quaint tudor style! It is so charming to walk-down chestnut court, and it’s important our town retain it’s original feel. We need to beautify and improve our town’s charm by adding beautiful street lamps even gas lanterns like can be seen in Charleston, SC (see attached photo), and beautiful planters with flowers and shrubs. Maybe even a fountain and more benches.
  • This town is in desperate need of good quality restaurants that are family-friendly. I would really NOT like to see chain fast food restaurants like chipolte. I would love to see charming new concept restaurants with great food. An example would be Crosby’s kitchen in the lakeview neighborhood of the city. The Fox Restaurant group also has amazing concept restaurants in Phoenix Arizona such as Flower Child a casual lunch place with organic fresh food and smooothies; and “Henry” a more upscale fun adult restaurant with a beautiful ralph lauren style interior. I know they are coming to Chicago and it would be great if we could get them to open in Winnetka!!! ( We need more outdoor dining options too!
  • For clothing boutiques, we need a wider variety of options and prices. Some of the existing boutiques are very pricey. A boutique that is in the price range of a Banana Republic would be ideal. This appeals to a larger population in the community. We also need a children’s shoe store.
  • This town desperately needs a bakery! We need an eat-in bakery that serves a wide variety of options (please not just a cupcake place). Something similar to Bittersweet Bakery in the city (or Three Tarts in northfield)! You can order your kid’s birthday cake, but then you can also sit down and order a yummy sandwich/or salad and have coffee with a friend. If they could serve gelato too, even better!
  • An upscale spa/hair salon would also be nice! And a small hardware store!This town has such potential! I’ve heard many small business owners complain that the rent is so high that this really effects their business and their desire to stay in Winnetka. It is important for the town to evaluate how to alleviate this problem so we can be more supportive to small business owners.
  • The Fell building could be (could have been) a great location for an upscale, yet family-friendly food court, something on the order of the French Market downtown. Winnetkans could enjoy banh mi, churros, ramen and a host of other quickly-served treats, and vendors could give it a go without outfitting an entire restaurant. If not the Fell building, then the post office site.Speaking more globally, there needs to be some serious thinking about the mismatch between Winnetka rents and the prospects for retail merchants given the internet and our growing time famine, Recreational shopping, along with shopping protected from easy price comparison–both longtime staples of Winnetka’s commerce–are fading from the scene.And if people want something like a convenient hardware store, it will have to happen as a nonprofit community initiative, as has been done in places like Vermont.
  • I’d love to see as much green space as possible on the post office site (or make it all green by extending Dwyer Park!). If you are going to have some buildings, I’d like to see it symmetrically mimic the courtyard east of Chestnut where the back of village hall is. Let’s take this land acquisition opportunity and make it fabulous with more green space.
  • Don’t forget to convert Gage to two way, keeping the signal at GB. This would minimize traffic flow between kids playing in park and train station.
  • I would love to see Dwyer Park expanded on the post office site. Why not take a once in a lifetime opportunity to create more green space in our lovely town. A fountain with benches, a true restroom etc would be a huge benefit to this location. Not another condo, townhouse, or row home building with first floor retail. We are not desperate for more tax revenue, that should not be the primary reason driving decisions. It makes no sense to me to add new retail space with the current amount of vacancies we have. Focus on solutions eliminating these current vacancies. I agree with the other posts we need more viable, high quality food establishments, true neapolitan style pizza, farm to table, bakery, craft coffee are some ideas. We don’t need any more dry cleaners or nail salons.
  • I suggest providing more space for outdoor cafe-style seating at restaurants. Those local restaurants that have, or have had, outdoor seating, such as Avils, Little Rickys and ONeils, have been successful. People are drawn to places where there are other people and it creates a sense of vibrancy and community.
  • Please look at the Despisito study done in 2007 and the 2013 ULI study in 2013 for ideas regarding Post Office site redevelopment. Lots of residents are nearing retirement age and would like to downsize. We do not want rentals–we want low rise condos and town homes that are near downtown which are pet friendly!Many in the community are dog owners, yet the only leash-free open space available is Centennial Beach. The beach is a great amenity however it has numerous drawbacks in that it is not securely enclosed, it is not centrally located within the village and it essentially requires that you bathe your dog every time you visit. This means that the space is rarely used. A better option would be a centrally located and fenced-in dog park. The southeast corner of the post office space is ideal for that park. It was easily walked to by a majority of residents, it allows dog owners to exercise their dogs without concern for sand or lake water, it brings residents into the downtown area on a regular basis.An open space for dogs at the old landfill site is also a positive option but it lacks the central location and walkability of the post office site. As a larger site it will be perfect for weekend trips and those looking for more extensive exercise. The post office site will provide the type of community-building everyday draw that will make downtown more vibrant. Having both spaces would be the ideal. We shouldn’t use the post office space to add more vacant storefronts, we should use it bring people into the downtown area.
  • Please no more nail salons! It would be great to have a real ice cream shop (like Oberweis or Bobtail), a children’s clothing store for everyday/casual items. It’d be great to get a shoe store back, too—shoes are one product that you really have to try on to know how they feel; you can’t just go by size.
  • We recently moved here from Fairfield County, CT (the NYC suburbs in Connecticut), where the demographics are extremely similar to Winnetka. Fairfield County has several fantastic downtowns that could serve as a great model for Winnetka – Greenwich, Westport, New Canaan. Each downtown is essentially anchored by excellent upscale casual restaurants, making the areas a destination for those who live in the towns. There are no comparable restaurants in Winnetka, certainly nothing drawing me to any of the downtowns, so I would suggest checking these out as examples of actual places that would be great in Winnetka:
  • BarTaco in Westport – packed lunch through nighttime and a place where people go a couple of times a month (a destination for families, couples and singles) – they are expanding nationwide and considering Illinois right now (let me know if I could be helpful in making any introductions)
  • Meli Melo in Greenwich – fantastic crepe/salad place popular with everyone from teens to adults – ideal upgrade for the old Panera
  • Neat coffee in Westport – a super hip coffee place also serving food (think avocado toast, great desserts, etc.) and wine
  • Le Pain Quotidien in Greenwich and New Canaan – international chain of city cafes that were very successful in the CT suburbs (already a few in Chicago)
  • Until a way is figured out to fill the embarrassing number of empty storefronts, particularly in Hubbard Woods, I think further development of the area, with an assumption of commercial viability, may be a waste of funds and a moot point. If brick and mortar stores can’t survive here, the reasons need to be discussed and solutions need to be proposed before money is spent on development. I have heard that taxes are significantly reduced for landlords of vacant properties, which would lower the owner’s incentive to rent at market rates. True or false?
  • We need more casual ethnic dining options (both sit-down and carry-out, and ideally delivery). Thai and Indian should be priorities. Not only would these options be valued by current residents, but they would also be appealing to young families considering moving to Winnetka from Chicago. They are used to having these amenities in Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Bucktown, and Wicker Park and enjoy the convenience and variety. They view our moribund casual dining scene as a significant deterrent to moving to Winnetka. Without an influx of this new blood, energy, and ideas into our village, we will stagnate even further.
  • It’s been sad to see longtime family businesses closing. Overhead rent costs have been reason given by some. Rents continue to rise b/c of rising & high property taxes. We all complain about property taxes, often forgetting that commercial property taxes are at an even higher rate. Is there a way to help businesses financially by giving them an incentive to being in Winnetka (vs closing or going elsewhere)? Is there a way to get Winnetka residents to frequent these establishments. I’ve seen food establishments starting & trying their best, but no one goes there. And, there is no good reason not to go. We need to really build excitement in the village to support OUR community businesses. They are us; they are OUR bigger family
  • Hubbard Woods used to support a bakery, a butcher, two delis, a hot dog stand, and two pharmacies! It would be great to have more places like these to visit on a weekly basis including a small hardware store. There is currently no reason to wander downtown Hubbard Woods on a weekly basis.
  • There are several successful, local, regional, or mid-sized fast casual dining options that should be considered for Hubbard Woods and Elm Street. Restaurants like Protein Bar, Freshii, GRK Kitchen, Blaze, and the like have proven concepts and operations but are somewhat differentiated from Chipotle, Panera, or Five Guys. They might provide enough uniqueness for those who might consider the large chains too “ordinary” for Winnetka. I don’t know whether our demographics are sufficiently attractive to them, but they or their more established franchisees should be contacted to gauge interest.
  • Don’t be afraid of fast casual chains. One reason they have broad coverage is that they know how to be successful in a variety of geographies, in a variety of operating circumstances, and have sufficient capital to provide more staying power. While a locally-owned option would be better, it isn’t helpful to residents to have an establishment owned by someone who operates it like a hobby, or one that is operated by someone who has no idea what he/she is doing. That makes for a less satisfying retail experience, and a greater chance of that business not being successful in the long run. Having more consistency in the Winnetka retail experience would be a welcome change from the past few years. Also, “Glenview” is not a dirty word and should not be invoked as such. That village’s Glen Town Center is thriving on weekends with people from all demographic groups – teens, families, older couples. It would be terrific to h ave some of that vibrancy and tax revenue in our village. Finally, if signage and branding requirements from chains is an issue, that is a separate topic that can be addressed as part of negotiations.
  • I would like to make a suggestion about the land where the post office sits. I would love to see that turned into a new library. A library where there are multiple sitting rooms, potentially with cozy chairs and maybe even a fireplace, multiple rooms for community meetings, rooms for displays etc and easier parking. A new fully engaging library would be a great community use for that space.
  • It would be great to get some family-friendly businesses in. We don’t need more high-end retailers. Getting a shoe store back, at least for kids shoes, would be great. I feel that shoes have to be tried on, even when you think you know the size.  Also, I think there needs to be more oversight, if not clearer regulations, regarding retail landlords so that their tenants can be assured that buildings will be maintained appropriately and tenants treated fairly.
    • Issues:
      1) lack of progress in approving new developments/structures
      2) degree of rancor and obstruction among Village residents towards new developments/structures
      3) vacancies in the retail districts.
    •  Ideas for the Retail Districts:
      1) a small hardware store (similar to the “city-sized” ones in downtown Chicago).
      2) casual restaurant (hot dog/hamburger and a cafe (similar to Panera) in Hubbard Woods and Elm St districts
      3) retail, non-specialty bakery
      4) although our economy is shifting to big box stores and online purchasing, I would like the Village to do whatever possible to attract businesses which sell goods rather than services in Winnetka.
    • Winnetka needs a casual family friendly restaurant (example menu shown).screen_shot_20151116_at_2.27.00_pm
  • We miss Lemongrass, a Thai restaurant (mostly carry out), desperately in town where it was located in the Laundry Mall. We also have to drive all the way to Highwood to obtain Indian food from the Curry Hut. If Thai and Indian food, as well as other more healthy and vegetarian options, are big sellers, then we should encourage those types of businesses to come to town! They would be supported!
  • There are not many reasonable places for kids and teens to hang out at besides McDonalds. I realize that the Community House has the YO, but my kids were never interested in going there at all (I tried!) Since we have lost so many restaurants, how about a place that’s called The Student Union, that would emulate a college student union. You could have things like darts, pool tables, fooseball, video game lounge, as well as tables and couches to hang out at. There could be a food court or even one food place to replace what we lost (D’s hot dogs, Panera). You could have a pass system or pay by the visit- very nominal, maybe free with food purchase. Part could be for tweens only, part for teens, part for adults, or you could have different times for different groups. It could be rented out for parties- maybe sponsored by the Park District or by a large business. You would have to make sure that it’s fun enough for kids and teens via some focus groups, but this could be really cool. Maybe you could get some sponsorship from gaming companies, or other companies that would want to reach this population with disposable income.
  • It would be fantastic to have public restrooms at some of the Winnetka parks. At Glencoe’s Shelton Park on the Green Bay Trail, they have a Port O Potty with a permanent wood screen, which is great. Of course permanent public restrooms would be far better but more expensive. When we are enjoying the Winnetka parks, we always have to find a business with a bathroom, and I’m sure that they don’t appreciate it either.Change the lighting in the downtown area like surrounding towns. Turn the post office site into one similiar to market square in Lake Forest. The South end on Oak St could have row homes. The North end on Elm St could have 1st floor relail and condos above. The middle U Shaped area would have retail on the street level and condos above on the North side. Retail would also face Chestnut. The inner U shape would have angle parking and also a parking garage below to handle general parking and private for the condos. The row homes on Oak St would have garages to their rear going to an alley that exists West then South to Oak St. The entrance and exit to the parking garage would be at the NorthWest area on Elm St. The retail on the South side of the U shaped court would have nothing above so the row houses would overlook the court. The West end of the court would face the existing park. The size of the post office lot is very similiar to Market Squ are in Lake Forest. Put pressure on Bratchi plumbing to park their trucks elsewhere . Who ever owns that metal structure next to the village hall should be fined until its removal . Don’t hang the Christmas wreaths so high in downtown so that you can’t even see them. Have Green Bay Rd go straight next to the train station so the village hall, station park and the library would all be connected . Correct the flooding on Chestnut between Cherry and Oak which is a main entrance to downtown . Add a small retail store in the SouthEast corner of the parking lot of the Grand Food lot so it doesn’t look like a big empty lot.
  • Our village needs better dining options. A quality brick oven pizza restaurant similar to My Pie in the Glen would be great for teens and families. A higher end family friendly restaurant like Nick’s in Wilmette would do well. Ten Mile House in Evanston and Miramar in Highwood. These are all places our family travels to outside of our village on a regular basis because the family dining here pretty much ends with Little Ricky’s. A farm to table style restaurant would be welcome. And honestly a Potbelly’s, Corner Bakery or Jimmy Johns would be wonderful for quick lunches and dinner when we are rushing around carpooling during the week.
  • Replacing the USPS site with a YMCA. It will give more options for the kids and teenagers activities, it will attract out of towners which will increase Winnetka’s business.We have a higher children population than most Villages, why not invest in them. Teenage clothing stores, diners, cafe’s, with Caribou and Haute Dogs being gone the options are minimal. Candy store, party accessories etc. We have many high end designer and specialty stores, which always requires the parents to chip in, if we want to teach our youth about spending, we need some for them more affordable merchants.
  • We landed in Winnetka January 2014. We were struck by the beauty of the village and the friendliness of the people however we have been a little disappointed in the lack of obvious hub of the village. Winnetka seems very spread out with the two centers of Hubbard Woods and Winnetka and for my location (East Winnetka) the area feels empty without any real atmosphere. If I look for a comparison I can look at our neighbor, Wilmette where on a Friday and Saturday night it feels ‘alive’ in the Spring and Summer with patrons sitting outside at one of the many outdoor dining options. I’d love to spend my money in Winnetka more often and not have to look at our neighbors offerings!
  • Also what do the teenagers do here? There doesn’t seem anywhere suitable for them to hang out and meet. I get that they are over scheduled with sports and homework but is that in part because there is nothing in the community for them? Where is the burger bar or hotdog bar for them to hang out and grab a shake? It would be great if the committee could look at how they address the ‘feel’ of the village and help the younger people in the area.
  • An easy way to create more parking in the Hubbard Woods location would be to make the (recently updated) parking structure for commuters (Zoned parking) and leave the street parking to visitors throughout the day (2-hour limit parking).
  • I have a few thoughts about businesses to attract to the area, if possible. I know this depends on so many factors, but I thought I would throw some thoughts into the ring:
    – For the Indian Hill area (near the High School) we could use another “healthy” fast food restaurant like Chipolte, Corner Bakery Cafe, Roti, Au Bon Pain, We love Nemo’s Sandwich Shop and would want to hurt their business, but there are enough commuters, students & workers to support both.
    – For anywhere that might have the space; a movie theatre.
    – An ice cream shop (not a weigh-it-yourself like Loves)… a DQ, or Baskin-Robbins, or Homers type of place.
    – A hardware store.
    – A property bakery (Tags or Bennisons type).
  • Connect the East side and West side business districts by expanding the parking lot in back of the community house over the railroad tracks to Green Bay. This would significantly increase parking and allow for significant upgrades to how the business district could be accessed. There would be no impact on homeowners and the dangerous curve on Green Bay could be eliminated.
  • Prominent and substantial Village of Glencoe sign where Hubbard Woods/Winnetka ends near Scott Ave. I’d like our Village of Winnetka signs to be of similar quality and more prominent at key town junctures. I like the village sign at the Skokie Lagoons, “Village of Winnetka, a community of learners”. If this continues to be our identity and tagline, let’s use it!
  • I took the Hubbard Woods walking tour and noticed decent size, covered trash cans around town. With more restaurants in the future, we will obviously need more. As a dog walker, the trash cans seem conveniently placed for both dog walking and retail visits. There are too few benches for our future of increased pedestrian traffic and regular use of the sidewalks. Sidewalks felt narrow, with parked cars on one side and tree trunk grates and retail planter boxes crowding the walkway and forcing a jagged walking path.
  • Hubbard Woods appears to be made up of Design type shops encompassing mostly Home Decor (accessories, antiques, furniture) and Beauty (hair & nail salons). There are many one-time purchase retail and service outlets – architect, bed/bedding, builder, insurance, eye glasses. These are not places that a consumer would visit regularly, but rather once during a major purchase period. Many current HW businesses do not draw pedestrian traffic.
  • I would like to see Panera relaced with same or similarly accessible, high turnover, family-friendly lunch place offering sandwiches, salads or similar non-bagel food. Quality coffee offered near the train station (or in the train station) would be highly desirable.