Once an artist colony, the Ravinia Business District (RBD) is a secondary local hub and home to Ravinia Festival. There is a significant range of convenience in commercial activities within the RBD. Walgreens, a regional pharmacy, serves the needs of neighborhoods surrounding the RBD. Loyal diners travel relatively long distances to enjoy outstanding restaurants. Service business, such as dry cleaners, hair salons and dental and medical providers reside in the RBD as well. The Metra commuter train provides easy access to the RBD and offers City residents, customers and employees frequent service between the RBD and downtown Chicago and Kenosha. Based on the diverse range of land uses found there, all City residents have a stake in the success and continue health of the RBD. The RBD has withstood substantial change and challenges over the past many years. These include the development of regional shopping malls and big box stores, changes in the retail industry, and fluctuations in the economy.
Ravinia Business District Tax Increment Financing District
In 2005, the City Council established the Ravinia Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District to foster redevelopment and strategic improvements along Roger Williams Avenue, in southern Highland Park.
In 2012, based on a recommendation of the Ravinia District Advisory Committee, the City Council authorized a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) budget amendment for a Streetscape Design & Identity Plan ("Plan") and a Utility Adequacy Study ("Study") for the TIF District. As part of the planning working for the studies, two open houses were held to solicit feedback and a website was established to provide information on the process and accept public comments and questions. The Plan and the Study were completed at the end of 2012.
The Streetscape Design & Identity Plan was prepared by Hitchcock Design Group, in association with Nicholas Associates, and provides a clear framework for implementation and suggested objectives for accomplishing the recommendations contained within the guiding document. At the recommendation of the Advisory Committee, the City Council allowed the Streetscape Design & Identity Plan to include the creation of marketing tools to help promote the neighborhood. As a result of this aspect of the Plan, a brand strategy, statement and brandmark were created for the Ravinia District.
The Utility Adequacy Study, prepared by Strand Associates, was a nice accompaniment to the Streetscape Design & Identity Plan because it provides a comprehensive outline of the steps that must be taken before, during and after the installation of the streetscape elements to ensure that infrastructure can support improvements in the Ravinia District.
In 2013, the Council directed the Committee to further evaluate the signage elements proposed within the Streetscape Design & Identity Plan and determine which signage the Council should consider installing in the short-term, until TIF funds could accumulate to finance some of the larger-scale improvements recommended. The Advisory Committee's recommendations regarding signage and the addition of crosswalks was considered by the City Council in early 2014. Installation of the signage, as well as crosswalks were initiated in 2015 and completed in 2016.
For questions regarding the implementation of the Streetscape Design & Identity Plan, or to request any of the aforementioned studies that have been completed for the Ravinia District, please contact the Planning Division at 847.432.0867.
Ravinia Business District Market Study
In 2008, the City, local property owners, merchants, and the Ravinia Neighbors Association (a non-profit organization devoted to preserving the unique character of the Ravinia neighborhood) joined informally and together are committed to improving and regenerating the RBD. Following discussions among members of the informal group during the latter part of 2008, it was determined that the City should solicit proposals from consulting firms to provide a market analysis of the TIF District.
In 2009, the City Council approved a consulting agreement with the Community Land Use and Economics Group, Inc. ("CLUE Group") for completion of a retail market analysis of the RBD, as well as a strategic plan for retail and mixed-use development.
Upon completion of the study in April of 2010, the consultants presented their findings at a public meeting at Ravinia School. In conjunction with the presentation of these findings, a RBD advisory committee ("Committee") was appointed by the Mayor. Presently, the Committee is comprised of property owners, representatives of the City Council, City staff, Ravinia Festival, the Chamber of Commerce, and business owners and Ravinia neighborhood residents. The Committee met with the consultants to review the market analysis and the playbook (which is an addendum to the market study report intended to support the implementation of the study's findings and recommendations). Subsequently, the Committee refined and prioritized the consultant's recommendations. On August 9, 2010, the City Council unanimously accepted the Ravinia Market Analysis Report as recommended by the Committee.
In summary, the market study report recommends pursuing two compatible market-based strategies. The first strategy involves increasing the number of convenience retail and service-related businesses within the Ravinia neighborhood. As noted in the report, this objective can be attained by initiating actions, including increasing the District's daytime population and increasing weekend activities within the Ravinia Business District.
The second strategy, which centers upon increasing the number of dining and small scale entertainment options in the RBD, is most easily supported through increasing evening activities within the RBD enhancing gateways and way-finding signage within the RBD, and; furthering outreach efforts to users of both Ravinia Festival and the Green Bay Trail.
Finally, general actions that support the furtherance of both strategies include the establishment of an SSA to fund marketing and events efforts to enhance business attraction and retention that would be directed by the Committee; implementation of distinct identity branding for the RBD, which was recommended through the TIF, and; stimulating the redevelopment and/or adaptive re-use of existing buildings.
Special Service Area Number 17
A Special Service Area (SSA) is a taxing mechanism that can be used to fund a wide range of special or additional services and/or physical improvements in a defined geographic area within a municipality. The Ravinia SSA was approved on December 9,2013 and more information can be found here on this important initiative of Ravinia's future.