Central Street Neighborhood Designated a Top 10 Great Neighborhood for 2013

Posted on Friday Oct 04, 2013 in awards, Community Development, planning

The American Planning Association (APA) today announced the designation of Evanston’s Central Street neighborhood as one of 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2013 under the organization’s Great Places in America program. In addition to having one of the ten best neighborhoods in the country, Evanston is the only community recognized in the Chicago Region. APA Great Places exemplify exceptional character and highlight the role planning and planners play in adding value to communities, including fostering economic growth and jobs.

“Central Street is indeed a special place, not just to those who call it home, but to all Evanstonians,” said Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.  “We are happy to receive this recognition and to showcase the extraordinary neighborhood.”

To announce and celebrate this important designation, Mayor Tisdahl and local elected officials are holding a press conference at 3:00 p.m. today, Friday, October 4, 2013, at Independence Park, Central Street at Stewart Avenue. The public is invited to attend the press conference to celebrate this achievement alongside members of the Central Street Neighbors Association and the Central Street Business Association. The rain site is the north branch of the Evanston Public Library, 2026 Central Street.

Central St_0121_web.jpgAPA singled out this neighborhood for its amenities, active and involved citizens, and long history of planning. While adjacent to Northwestern University, the Central Street area is not a typical college neighborhood. Its eclectic mix of businesses – in terms of size, ownership, and service provided – and the neighborhood’s transportation options and special features make Central Street appealing to residents and visitors alike.

“The Central Street neighborhood is much greater than the sum of its parts,” said APA Chief Executive Officer Paul Farmer, FAICP. “By weaving together its many assets – a lakeside locale, niche retail, college sports and active recreation opportunities, and transit options – Central Street emerges as a colorful and attractive hometown, college town and regional destination,” he said.

The neighborhood mixes up a small-town pace and sensibility with engaged citizens and an edgy urban vibe. First mapped in 1673 and platted in 1868, Central Street terminates at the iconic 1873 Grosse Point Lighthouse on Lake Michigan’s shore. Today the neighborhood’s business area along Central Street is a foodie’s paradise given the spice and cooking-oil shops, bakeries, cafés and delis found there. Graced with mature trees and picturesque store fronts, the neighborhood has been updated with bike lanes and traffic-calming features and is now focused on transit-oriented redevelopment as recommended in Evanston’s 2007 master plan.

Central Street CTA web.jpgLong served by public transportation, Central Street boasts both Metra commuter rail and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) rapid transit stations. Noting the neighborhood’s transportation assets, Evanston’s 2000 comprehensive plan encourages transit-oriented development. The recently opened Central Station Apartments, a LEED Silver mixed-use project, features 80 residential units, 11,000 sq. ft. of retail, and a car-sharing parking space.

Several earlier multi-story, mixed-use structures, built to the lot line and larger in scale than surrounding commercial buildings, raised concern among residents about the potential for overdevelopment and loss of the neighborhood’s “European Village” charm. In 2005, the city responded by reducing building heights and residential densities for mixed-use structures in certain districts. Both the Central Street Neighbors Association and the Central Street Business Association have been instrumental to planning in the neighborhood.

Central_St_0003_web.jpgAPA’s Great Neighborhoods, Great Streets and Great Public Spaces feature unique and authentic characteristics that have evolved from years of thoughtful and deliberate planning by residents, community leaders and planners. The 2013 Great Places have many things Americans say are important to their “ideal community” including locally owned businesses, transit, neighborhood parks, and sidewalks. They illustrate how the foresight of planning fosters communities of lasting value.

The nine other APA 2013 Great Neighborhoods are: Chinatown, San Francisco, CA; Downtown Norwich, CT; Downtown Decatur, Decatur, GA; Downtown Mason City, Mason City, IA; Historic Licking Riverside Neighborhood, Covington, KY; Kenwood, Minneapolis, MN; Beaufort Historic District, Beaufort, SC; West Freemason, Norfolk, VA; and Williamson-Marquette Neighborhood, Madison, WI.

For more information about these neighborhoods, as well as APA’s top 10 Great Streets and top 10 Great Public Spaces for 2013 and previous years, visit http://www.planning.org/greatplaces/neighborhoods/2013. For more about National Community Planning Month taking place throughout October visit www.planning.org/ncpm