Elm Grove looking to revitalize its downtown area

By Ashley Haynes

June 16, 2019

 Watertown Plank Road in Elm Grove, seen during June of 2016.
Freeman file photo

ELM GROVE — Small, quaint and safe are some of the top words that Elm Grove residents associate with their downtown, according to an online survey administered earlier this year on the village’s website.

Now, village officials are hoping to find a balance between the small-town feel they love while revitalizing the downtown area.

The village is working on creating a Downtown Master Plan that will address bringing in more restaurant and retail options, as well as some housing.

Making downtown more pedestrian and bicyclist-friendly is also a goal.

“We’re all sort of confronted with the same thing, which is how do you address the ability to redevelop and do it in a way that still fits your community,” said Village President Neil Palmer.

He explained the village is aiming to make redevelopment easier and to encourage it more.

The online survey found that residents were most in support of bringing in more commercial businesses, as well as eating/drinking options.

Housing options were the least popular, but Palmer said residents now have a better idea of what the village is actually imagining after months of discussion.

“We’ve defined a very real desire for quality rental properties by existing village residents who are moving into a different phase of their lives. They want to get out of their house, but they want to stay in Elm Grove. “Right now, there’s really nowhere to rent,” Palmer said.

Parking is also being considered, especially with the possibility of housing units coming to the downtown area.

Some comments provided by residents on the online survey mentioned that some parking lots are not ideally designed, which has led to some accidents, as well as an overall sense of confusion and congestion.

Some potential short-term parking strategies include timed parking spaces and the creation of pick-up and drop-off zones for services like Uber and Lyft.

“I would call the overall response extremely positive,” Palmer said. “The vast majority of people who either contact me or other trustees directly are very supportive of many aspects of the changes being discussed. We’ve had good, positive critical comments too.”

Palmer said there were concerns on buildings being too tall in the downtown area, as well as many questions regarding how much density the village should be considering.

The village is awaiting the fourth iteration of drawings and plans for the conceptual downtown area.

Palmer said an open house is in the near future and could feasibly be scheduled sometime in mid-July.

“I think I had an email about two weeks ago that said ‘Why are you moving so fast? We need to talk about this more.’ and then yesterday I got one (that said) ‘Why are you taking so long?’ Maybe that means we’ve hit the sweet spot,” Palmer said.