Historic Preservation + Wilmette’s Future: Commission Shares Insights

On Monday December 13th the Ready Set Wilmette team met with the Village’s Historic Preservation Commission to discuss the Comprehensive Plan process and themes, goals and vision of historic preservation in Wilmette, how the Village has changed in recent years, and how the community might think about “preservation” in the future. The conversation was led by Michael Blue of Teska Associates, Inc and delved into a few themes, summarized below.

Do you have reactions to the Commission’s observations below? Other ideas? Take Poll #1, which closes January 26th.

How has Wilmette changed in the past 30 years?

  • Demographics –ethnic diversity has increased, more families with young kids, growing population overall.
  • Downtown Wilmette – enlivened with new restaurants, renovated buildings, new streetscape.
  • Predominant political ideology has shifted.
  • Empty nesters have moved away or to new homes in Wilmette.
  • Linden Square used to be more lively and home to a wider range of businesses – seems “out of sync” with what it could be with proximity to the Baha’i Temple and the end of the Purple El Line.
  • Ridge Road has lost beloved businesses; the busyness of the road and limited parking makes it a difficult place to visit – discourages new businesses from opening in vacant spaces.

What is the “value” of historic preservation in Wilmette?

  • People tend to enjoy their neighborhood more and are inclined to walk around to explore if they are connecting with the Village.
  • Preservation puts an emphasis on the history of the community – celebration and remembrance.
  • As our world becomes increasingly fast paced and virtual, preservation of physical history creates a tangible sense of continuity.
  • Renovation and restoration of historic structures can be very expensive but there are many benefits. Similarly, landmark status is perceived to be restrictive, but actually can provide more assistance to property owners to maintain the structure.
  • Preservation can help Wilmette reach sustainability goals – brick streets help with stormwater.

What else is historic preservation?

  • Preservation is not just about saving buildings and structures – preservation of the landscape, and character of the community. Everything tells the story of Wilmette.
  • A building doesn’t need to have been designed by a famous architect – the diversity of homes represents the culture, history, and diversity of Wilmette.
  • Creating records of the community today will help the community in the future.

“As our world becomes increasingly fast paced and virtual, preservation of physical history creates a tangible sense of continuity.”

As an example of preservation at work, at the meeting owners of 735 Michigan requested approval to replace the existing columns of their porte cochere to be more in line with the original design.

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