Hey Dude… where’s our Downtown?

At a recent event held as part of the Round Lake Beach 75th Anniversary Celebration, I was partnered with a former RLB mayor. As volunteers, we were both scheduled to staff a given check-point/display for 4½ hours.

As a long-time area resident, he was VERY knowledgeable in the history of the area, the development of Round Lake Beach in particular (having been the Mayor helped with that!), whereas I wanted some in-depth perspective as to how things came to be. What a perfect opportunity for a meeting of the minds!

I had only ONE question for which I was seeking an specific answer: just WHERE was downtown Round Lake Beach supposed to end up in the “Grand Scheme” of things?

You see, among his other accomplishments, this former mayor was responsible for much of the retail “growth” in our village during the 80’s and 90’s. He was in a perfect position to ensure that RLB would not be taken advantage of by fast-taking developers. Being a small, land-challenged village, pre-planning of any development was much more critical than in nearby larger villages which (by comparison) had land to spare for less productive single-use sprawl-centric projects like strip malls and shopping centers at their outer edges.

[The section where you are spared 4½ hours of details…]

So, where was the “downtown” of Round Lake Beach supposed to go?

Sorry to say, it was never supposed to go anywhere. The focus was on fast growth for purposes of increasing tax revenue and giving residents local shopping opportunities. The idea of consulting with actual experienced village PLANNERS to create a multi-use, dense-with-retail, walkable downtown district and civic/public space (even if only a few blocks long) in the last remaining suitable area was shelved in favor of the Ponzi Scheme of short-term growth.

Turns out that the “Zoning” which was being used for overall guidance was developed with suburban expansion in mind; it was completely unsuitable for use in creating/supporting a mixed-use city center where the many facets of civic and community life can actually happen.

… and that’s why we have strip malls and shopping centers where our downtown is supposed to be!

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