Some thoughts on effective community revitalization from Glenview, Illinois

Glenview is an affluent suburban village of about 45,000 people, located in Cook County, Illinois on Chicago‘s North Shore.

The magazine Business Insider has recognized Glenview’s schools for their exceptional public education. In 2014, Business Insider ranked Glenview’s Glenbrook South High School as the 19th best public high school in the United States. In 2015, Glenbrook School District 225 was also ranked 2nd in the state only behind its neighbor New Trier Township, and 10th in the nation by Business Insider.

Here are some excerpts from an Op-Ed on community revitalization efforts in Glenview by Maureen Pekosh:

The Glenview Village Board has decided to spend over $2 million to purchase the vacant Bess Hardware site. They are doing this in the name of continued downtown revitalization. So far, Glenview revitalization has been about buildings.

We now have a Heinen’s grocery store where the empty Dominick’s hulk sat idle for too many years. We frequent this fine store often and it seems like we know more than half the individuals bagging and checking out shoppers, as local students have found gainful employment working at Heinen’s.

Midtown Square occupies the center of Glenview Road where a local firehouse stood for many years. People driving down Glenview Road see the new Core Power Yoga and empty storefronts. Clearly, Glenview is not the field of dreams. “If you build it they will come” is not how towns are revitalized.

Downtown Glenview is still a collection of storefronts. It is not a quaint downtown where strollers can enjoy ambling from one charming themed store to another like Long Grove.

Revitalizing means bringing new life or vigor. New buildings alone cannot do that. [Local leaders] have to sell more than space. They have to have a vision. Downtown Glenview, as it currently exists, is not enough to sell itself.

Village planners have to be excited about more than old buildings being torn down and new buildings put in their place. They need to define the revitalized downtown Glenview in such a way that businesses and customers will want to come here.

Once people see a reason to visit downtown rather than just to run a quick errand, businesses will see a base of support on which they could leverage their investment in Glenview. Once visitors have a reason to stay, they are more likely to explore more of what the new downtown Glenview has to offer. Once patrons see a reason to enjoy downtown Glenview, potential new businesses will finally see Glenview as a promising destination.

Photo (by Zol87 via Wikipedia) is of the control tower of a former Naval Air Station, which has been repurposed as shops.

See full Op-Ed in the Journal Online.

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