February 20, 2017

 

To the Property and Business Owners of Downtown Wheaton,

 

As the President of the Downtown Wheaton Association and on behalf of the Board of Directors, I want to extend all the best to you for a prosperous New Year in 2017.

 

Looking back on 2016, we welcomed a total of 13 new businesses to the Downtown Wheaton business district. In early January, Escape for Fun, located at 314 South Main Street opened for business, offering a new entertainment concept based on clues and teamwork.  The new year also marked the long awaited re-opening of Luong Loi Restaurant in its new location at 110-111 North Main Street.  The Perfect Thing, a specialty home furnishings consignment shop, opened at 204 West Liberty in spring of 2016.  Downtown Wheaton’s dining scene was further enhanced with the opening of Choun’s Restaurant, featuring traditional Thai cuisine in a contemporary setting.

 

Three new businesses also opened along West Liberty Street in 2016:  Ideas + Ink Interiors at 571 West Liberty; State Farm- Jeff McCallister Agency at 555 West Liberty and All State Insurance- The Battisto Agency  at 324 West Liberty .

 

Notable Notes Music Academy also opened in 2016 at 406 South Main Street.  County Farm Bagels chose to open its second location in Downtown Wheaton at 118 North Main in the fall of 2016; so now we don’t have to drive to Winfield for freshly baked bagels!  A new breakfast café- OMG Café opened its doors to coffee craving commuters at 390 West Front Street.  A new concept in retail and social justice, My Half of the Sky, opened a preview shop at 121 West Wesley during the holiday season with plans to return with house full (literally) of merchandise, (coffees, teas, candles complete with a special place for community gatherings) in 2017.

 

Wrapping up 2016, the sale of the Gaede’s building at 124 North Hale ushered in two new businesses which opened just in time for the holidays in 2016:  Miroballi Shoes at 124 North Hale and The Sipping Muse at 122 North Hale.

 

During all this new leasing activity, Andrew’s Garden, which recently celebrated its third anniversary, relocated to a larger space at 131 West Wesley.  Now, owner Andrew Paravano has a highly visible corner location in which to exhibit his beautiful, fresh cut flowers and creativity.

 

After much anticipation, Sogno Ristorante introduced roof top dining in Downtown Wheaton in 2016; providing just one more reason to linger over dinner and take in the sunset.

 

The Wheaton community was especially pleased when it was announced that the State of Illinois Driver Services facility would remain open at its location 128 West Liberty Drive.  Due to the State of Illinois budget impasse, many driver facilities were being closed in 2016 when rents could not be paid.  Fortunately, the landlord in Wheaton generously extended the lease with the State of Illinois and we are all grateful for his efforts to retain this tenant.

 

The New Year brings us a new crop of businesses which are expected to open in the first and second quarter of 2017.  The Naperville Running Company, currently under construction in the vintage train station building at 134 West Front is expected to open in March. Eyes on Wheaton, at 125 West Wesley, is expected to open in early February.  Le Salon De Pooch, a dog grooming service, is opening at 352 West Front Street in early March.  The New Year will also welcome a new dining destination in Downtown Wheaton known as The Burger Social at 108 North Hale.  It is expected to open in the spring of 2017. As mentioned earlier, we are also looking forward to the re-opening of a newly expanded My Half of the Sky, at 121 West Wesley in early 2017.

 

One factor that has greatly contributed to the continued vitality of Downtown Wheaton has been new housing.  In 2016, The Apartments of Wheaton Center, located at 537-571 West Liberty Drive, unveiled its new resort living lifestyle with the completion of a $30-million-dollar-modernization of the residential property including contemporary updates to all the residential units and the grounds as well.

 

The newest residential addition to Downtown Wheaton in 2016 was Courthouse Square Apartments. Featuring 153 luxury apartments, the complex offers landscaped grounds surrounding a central pond, along with amenities that include a heated outdoor pool, common area event space with demonstration kitchen, media and billiards room.

 

Work on the final phase of townhomes in the Courthouse Square development began in late 2016.  This project, which will bring the total of townhomes to a little over 50 units is expected to be completed in early 2017.

 

Another residential development is now underway at Wesley and West Street. Known as Wesley Place, the new development will feature 5 distinctively designed homes.

 

The City of Wheaton continues to move forward with its plans for a new streetscape and strategic plan for Downtown Wheaton. The City has hired an engineering firm to address the infra-structure needs of Front Street.  Plans are being drawn up for improvements to Front Street which will include a new design for Martin Memorial Plaza. Work on Front Street will be part of phase one of the plan followed by improvements to Hale and Wesley as part of phase two.  Long term plans still call for a new French Market structure, the conversion of Liberty Street into a festival street environment and a public plaza running parallel to Liberty Street across from the Secretary of State’s Driver Services facility.

 

 

In May and November of 2016, the Downtown Wheaton Association published its second and third edition of Living Wheaton magazine.   Distributed to 25,000 households in the Wheaton and surrounding suburban market, Living Wheaton featured full color photographs and articles of favorite Downtown Wheaton destinations; highlighting shopping, dining and special events.  Designed to promote Wheaton as an inviting and welcoming city (with a focus on Downtown Wheaton) Living Wheaton magazine has served as an effective marketing and branding vehicle for the Downtown Wheaton Association.

 

The Downtown Wheaton Association also launched its new Living Wheaton website in December.  Providing visitors with a more navigation friendly design that is reflective of the Living Wheaton brand the new site features a complete list of all Downtown businesses with links to each business’s respective online presence.

 

The Downtown Wheaton Association hosted a variety of special events and promotions designed to attract shoppers and visitors to the downtown area throughout the 2016 year.  The Ice (Cubed) Festival in January proved to be very popular with people of all ages who took selfies with the many ice sculptures on display and enjoyed a live ice carving demonstration at Martin Memorial Plaza.  A record number of foodies enjoyed the 3rd Annual In Good Taste ‘Toast’ kick off reception to Downtown Wheaton’s annual restaurant week in February of 2016.  Toms-Price Home Furnishing has served as the host of this annual dining reception and the Downtown Wheaton Association is looking forward to returning to this wonderful venue on February 23rd ,2017.

 

Approximately 1000 attendees celebrated Easter weekend in Downtown Wheaton with a very special Easter egg hunt and bonnet contest in Memorial Park this past year.  Easter arrives late in April in 2017 and here’s hoping for some warmer egg hunting weather.  Vintage Rides returns in late May in 2017 for its 19th year in Downtown Wheaton.  Popular with all generations of car lovers, Vintage Rides has become a Wheaton summer tradition.  Last year’s Vintage Rides season was one of the most well attended events throughout the summer and we look forward to Friday nights in 2017 complete with classic cars and ice cream.

 

The Wheaton Wine Walk in August of 2016 was a sell-out success for Downtown Wheaton. Over 700 wine lovers attended this event, enjoying tastings at a variety of retail shops and restaurants on a warm summer evening.  We are looking forward to hosting this event again in 2017; so, get your glasses ready!

 

2016 also saw the return of the Bike Wheaton Festival in August which is hosted in partnership with The Wheaton Bicycle Advisory Committee.  Many bike enthusiasts decorated their bikes and enjoyed a leisurely ride through Downtown Wheaton followed by family activities in Memorial Park.  A special thanks to the Wheaton Police Department for generously providing complimentary bike helmets and hosting a special bike rodeo as part of the festival.

 

The 8th Annual Chili Cook-Off in November of 2016 brought out over 1000 chili enthusiasts who consumed approximately 375 gallons of chili served by 15 downtown restaurants. Perfect chili eating weather and live music provided by Suburban Music and Andrew’s Garden made for a celebratory afternoon in Downtown Wheaton.  A very special thank you goes to all our participating restaurants who generously support this event through their generosity and award winning chili recipes.

 

The Annual Wheaton Christmas Parade was held in late November of 2016.  Featuring over 45 parade entries, this year’s parade included some very creative floats designed by the Carlson family of businesses, costumed Disney characters, a Christmas Mariachi band and, of course, Santa Claus.  This year, Downtown Wheaton had the honor of hosting A Gift to Remember, a special Christmas Art Walk.  Featuring 12 artists’ original works depicting 12 Biblical stories of Christmas, the guided art walk also featured a live nativity scene on December 17th in the garden center of Carlson’s True Value Hardware.  A very special thank you to our participating stores and to Jonahre, the nonprofit that organized the art walk.

 

 

The French Market in Wheaton continues to bring thousands of patrons into Downtown Wheaton throughout the spring, summer and fall.  Look for the Wheaton French Market to re-open in April of 2017.

 

There are several opportunities for Downtown Wheaton property owners and business owners to come together over the course of the coming year.  The Association’s Elections and Annual Meeting in late April is an opportune time to meet and reconnect on a business and social level.  Throughout the year, our partnerships with the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce, the Wheaton Park District, the Wheaton Public Library, and the many community organizations throughout Wheaton also provide each of us with opportunities to engage in the community as ambassadors for Downtown Wheaton.

 

As President, I want to also acknowledge the contribution of time, talent and expertise on the part of each of my fellow members of the Association’s Board of Directors.  In addition to running their respective businesses, each director serves on a volunteer basis, attending many board and committee meetings throughout the year, assisting staff with on-site events, and guiding special projects.

 

It is a pleasure to serve with such a dedicated team of people:   Dick O’Gorman of Ivy Restaurant;  Lindsay Jirasek of Frocks & Frills; Diane Moore of Moore Toys & Gadgets, Ron Diener, Member at Large; Paul Rodriguez of Suburban Music; Jodie Schillinger of Graham’s Fine Chocolates and Ice Cream;  Jim Mathieson of Mathieson, Moyski,  Austin & Co.; Pam Bozonelos of Egg’lectic Cafe; Beverly Fishleigh of Tasting DeVine; Richard Card of Jeans and a Cute Top Shop; Tonya Parravano of Andrew’s Garden; Rick Erickson of Bold Steps; Cheryl Armstrong of Wheaton Bank & Trust; John Rutledge, City of Wheaton Councilman; Mike Benard of the Wheaton Park District; Kerry O’Brien of the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce; and Jim Kozik, Director of Planning and Economic Development for the City of Wheaton.

 

I want to also acknowledge and express our appreciation to Mayor Gresk, the Wheaton City Council and all the employees of the City of Wheaton. The success of Downtown Wheaton reflects their vision and enthusiastic support of our efforts as an Association.  Our new Wheaton Police Chief James Volpe and his officers have been a real pleasure to work with over the past year.   Our new City Manager Mike Dzugan has also been supportive with his efforts to implement a new parking plan for both employees and customers in the downtown area. We are also looking forward to working in partnership with Arin Thrower, the City’s new Public Information Officer.

 

The 2017 New Year is off to a promising start with new businesses, new residents and a full calendar of community events and promotions taking place in Downtown Wheaton.  I look forward to continuing my service as President and wish each of you all the best in 2017.

 

Donna Hesik, Suzette’s Creperie

President , The Downtown Wheaton Association

 

Downtown Wheaton Association  108 East Wesley Street, Wheaton, Illinois 60187