ULI Chicago convened a Technical Assistance Panel in summer of 2016 to help the Village of Gurnee in its efforts to re-invigorate East Grand Avenue. East of US Highway 41, Grand Avenue had been facing declining property values for years as its aging commercial centers struggled to retain and attract quality tenants. Retail gravity in Gurnee is much stronger on the west side, which is anchored by regional attractions like the Gurnee Mills Mall and Six Flags Great America. Recognizing this, the ULI Chicago TAP recommended building a unique identity for East Grand Avenue, distinct from the western section of the corridor and rooted in its existing independent, local businesses and well-established surrounding neighborhoods. Read the TAP report to review the panel’s recommendations.
Since the TAP, the Village has been working actively to implement the panel’s recommendations. New landscaping has helped improve the pedestrian environment and a farmer’s market launched this summer to activate a large, mostly empty parking lot on East Grand Avenue, became an instant hit. The Village was also able to encourage U-Haul, the property owner of the vacant former Hand-Andy building and the adjacent vacant motels, to put the buildings back into active use. To continue to build on this initial success, several development experts from the original panel re-convened this month to brainstorm ideas with Village officials and staff. Panelists discussed strategic approaches for evaluating financial assistance requests for façade improvements and other upgrades from area property owners, opportunities for providing library, park district and other community services for east side residents in a new facility along East Grand Avenue and financing mechanisms for improvements.
Stay tuned for more information as ULI Chicago continues to help Gurnee and other past TAP communities realize their goals!