Principles: Create Walkable Neighborhoods and Provide a Variety of Transportation Choices
In a nutshell: Since adoption of its 2000 Uptown Renewal Plan, the Town of Normal, Illinois, has made great progress in bringing the plan’s vision of a pedestrian-friendly environment to fruition. Among other things, the town adopted design and maintenance ordinances, replaced aging infrastructure, transformed an awkward five-way intersection into a pedestrian-friendly roundabout, widened sidewalks, rebuilt a major road, and constructed a community plaza and multi-modal transportation hub. The town did create new funding sources for these capital investments, such as a sales tax, a hotel tax, and a tax increment financing district, and dedicated the sources solely to the plan implementation, a risk that is paying off in many ways, including increased property values and new investment.
The roundabout, completed in 2010, is the centerpiece of Uptown. It calms traffic; improves driver, pedestrian and bicyclist safety; connects to the Constitution Trail; creates an inviting public open space; and incorporates innovative stormwater management facilities to protect a nearby creek and irrigate public plantings. The roundabout and adjacent Gateway Plaza function as community gathering spots, accommodating small and large events and stimulating economic revitalization.
Another key infrastructure improvement is the multimodal transportation center, completed in 2012. The mixed-use center, which fronts the roundabout and houses passenger facilities, a cafe and municipal offices, connects local and inter-city buses, bike routes, and Amtrak trains.
The town also invested in Complete Streets improvements by resurfacing streets, repairing and widening sidewalks, and enhancing landscaping, lighting and street furniture in the district.
Why we like it: The town stuck to the plan it approved in 2000 and made investments that have really paid off, making a clear connection between a long term plan and tangible results. Multiple public and private stakeholders have continually pushed for and committed to implementation. Today, Uptown is more walkable, aesthetically pleasing and inviting to residents and visitors alike. People have more viable transportation choices, and over 40% of all trips in Uptown are made by walking and biking. This walkable environment has played an important role in local economic development. Since construction of the roundabout, Uptown has experienced a retail sales increase of 46% and attracted more than $160 million in private investment. Property values in Uptown’s tax increment financing district also increased 31% between 2004 and 2010.
For more information:
 Safer Streets, Stronger Economies, Smart Growth America, p. 21  Safer Streets, Stronger Economies, Smart Growth America, p. 23  Landscape Performance Series, Landscape Architecture Foundation