2022 Year in Review
Environmental Sustainability Plan
In November, the Skokie Village Board unanimously approved a comprehensive, ambitious Environmental Sustainability Plan to guide the Village's programs, actions and policies in the coming years. This approval followed hundreds of hours of research, drafting, comments and discussion by Village leaders and more than 900 community stakeholders. Representatives of paleBLUEdot, LLC, the project consultant, noted that Skokie had higher community participation -- particularly in terms of responses to the initial project survey -- than any of the firm's previous clients. Hooray, Skokie!
A large, interdisciplinary committee of Village staff are working on implementing the plan's nine sectors, including transportation and mobility, land use and housing, buildings and energy, green space and trees and more. As recommended by the Sustainable Environmental Advisory Commission and others involved with plan development, last night's plan approval includes changing to a single weekly refuse collection system and providing enhanced options for compostable materials such as food, paper and other types of organic waste. These changes will not occur until spring 2023.
In addition, the Sustainability Chapter of the Village’s Comprehensive Plan was completed in 2022.
Construction on the new Downtown Skokie Homewood Suites by Hilton at 4930 Oakton Street began in summer 2022. The 143-room hotel is expected to bring an estimated 47,000 guests annually who, along with their families, friends and colleagues, will shop, dine, consume services and generate additional sales taxes for the Village. During construction, hundreds of construction workers and related professionals will work on the project. When completed, the hotel, restaurants and event spaces are anticipated to generate 125 full-time jobs in Downtown Skokie. The hotel is slated to open in early 2024. Click here for more information.
Leasing at Highpoint at 8000 North began in January, with Village and community leaders gathering on March 15 for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony. The 153-unit, rental building is currently more than 85 percent leased. Designed by famed architect Lucien LaGrange, the property includes units ranging in size from studios to large three-bedroom penthouses. Luxury amenities at Highpoint include a rooftop park with grilling and outdoor spaces, a gourmet demonstration kitchen, a yoga and fitness studio, as well as numerous designer lounges for working, entertaining and relaxing. Pets are welcome, with a dog run and pet wash available. Ground-floor commercial space is expected to welcome three new restaurants during 2023.
See more information on pricing, floorplans, building tours and more.
The Skokie Village Board approved a new, two-phase, mixed-use development in the 7200 block of Linder Avenue at Touhy Avenue across from the Village Crossing shopping center.
The proposed development will be located on a 6.2-acre, largely vacant site and will feature ground-floor commercial space and a total of 494 luxury rental residential units. As part of Phase 1, a commercial space for a cannabis dispensary will be constructed to face Linder Avenue. A parking structure will contain 980 parking spaces, exceeding the 898 required to serve residential and commercial uses for both project phases. Intersection improvements at Linder and Touhy Avenues will help alleviate area traffic congestion. The ground floor of the development will feature a street-level courtyard for public use and a restaurant space with outdoor dining. This new development underscores both Skokie's convenient, desirable location and the excellent quality of life in the community.
The success of the Highpoint at 8000 North development, as well as the BLVD, a new 40-unit luxury rental building at 8025 Skokie Boulevard that is fully leased, is generating increased interest in new housing and mixed-use development in Skokie, both with luxury units and a measure with below-market rates included.
The Village received a $600,000 grant from the State of Illinois that will be used to revitalize the Main Street corridor west of Crawford Avenue. In addition, the Village received approximately $1.15 million in American Recue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that were used to assist the community in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic by providing jobs training and emergency financial assistance to Skokie residents, giving grants to local social service agencies and supporting approximately 12 minority-owned or low-income emerging and startup businesses.
Through the Consumer Affairs Commission’s annual call for community nominations, Culver’s in Skokie was named as the 2022 Skokie Business of the Year, with Buona Beef, Healing Hands Wellness & Chiropractic, Sketchbook Brewing Company and Skokie Provisions as runners-up. On the last Saturday of October, unseasonably warm weather brought record numbers of little ghosts and goblins and their families to the annual Trick-or Treat event in Downtown Skokie.
Westfield Old Orchard Expansion Plans
In late 2022, the owners of the Westfield Old Orchard Shopping Center (Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield or URW) announced a new landmark vision for the mall, adding best-in-class retail, new restaurants, gourmet markets and much more, along with modern residences to create a North Shore destination. The new development, along with an abundance of outdoor amenities including a park and event space designed as the center’s focal point, will begin a phased opening in 2026. URW has pledged that sustainability will be central to the development. In a media release on the announcement, Mayor George Van Dusen said,
“For decades, Westfield Old Orchard has been a key economic and employment driver for Skokie and the region. Westfield and URW’s commitment to significantly invest and transform Old Orchard continues both this important economic growth and the Village’s long-standing, collaborative partnership with property ownership. The Village Board’s action earlier this year to designate Old Orchard as one of over 220 Illinois Business Districts has resulted in Westfield’s financial commitment of over $100 million to transform Old Orchard. I applaud Westfield’s focus on sustainability with this new vision, as is consistent with the Village’s recently-approved comprehensive Environmental Sustainability Plan.”
After the Business District was approved, numerous new or expanded restaurant and retail concepts opened, including Alo Yoga, Bar Siena, Barnes & Noble (about to open at press time), Bloomie’s, The Capital Grille, Levi’s, L’Occitane, Louis Vuitton, Marine Layer, Molly’s Cupcakes, Pie Five, Psycho Bunny, Reset by Therabody, Rod & Gunn and Tory Burch with more expected in 2023. URW also announced that redevelopment will begin in 2023 with the former Lord & Taylor space “completely reimagined and redesigned” to offer new luxury home furnishings, restaurants, wellness facilities and entertainment options. Phase two of the Village’s Co-Responder program officially started on November 1, 2021.
Significant Investment in the Community Continued
The Village’s Community Development Department issued approximately 3,700 building permits in 2022 for an estimated construction value of $100 million.
Bird Strike Mitigation Policy Developed
In December, the Village Board unanimously approved the first reading of a motion to add Bird Strike Mitigation Building Design Guidelines to the Building Code. This move positions Skokie as a leader in mitigating bird strikes in private development.
Modeled after the Chicago guidelines for bird-friendly development and similar to guidelines adopted by Evanston in September 2022, Skokie’s move supports the development of a regional approach to stopping bird collisions. Though unlike Chicago’s guidelines which are only recommendations, Skokie will require these measures for certain new construction including residential buildings over three stories above grade and for the rehab of building façades in which 70 percent or more of the façade is replaced.
According to the American Bird Conservancy, over 1 billion birds die each year in the United States because of collisions with glass. The vision that birds have result in the perception that glass reflections of sky, trees, other vegetation is real and is an area that they can access/fly into. These new guidelines aim to reduce that risk by implementing bird-friendly standards for high risk features on the façade, exterior lighting, and other exterior components. Editor’s Note: the Bird Strike Mitigation Policy received final approval from the Village Board in January 2023.
Skokie Police Department – Body-Worn Cameras, Automatic License Plate Readers and More
In 2022, the Village’s Co-Responder team, that consists of a Crisis Intervention Team-trained police officer and a Human Services Advocate from the Health and Human Services Department, was dispatched to 511 calls for service where individuals and/or families were experiencing various levels of mental/behavioral health crisis. The team’s immediate response allows them to quickly triage and then deescalate situations and link individuals and/or family members to the wealth of social services available to Skokie residents. The data collected, feedback from internal staff, the public and Village partners indicates the Co-Responder program has had a very positive impact to the Skokie community and toward the achievement of the program goals:
- Reduce use of force: Positive – Three uses of force out of 511 interactions
- Diversion from jail: Positive – Only two individuals in 511 interactions were arrested
- Linkage to services: Positive – 51% were linked to further services
- Improve Information Sharing: Positive – Both within the Police Department, Village and service providers.
- Recurrences: Positive – 90% of individuals served by the Co-Responder either have no further contact or only one contact within the subsequent 90 days.
A total of 12 automated license plate reading cameras began being installed in strategic areas around the community to solve and reduce crime. The cameras will be used to help prevent and investigate crime by providing objective evidence, including license plate numbers and vehicle characteristics. To proactively prevent crime from occurring, the cameras send a real-time alert to the Skokie Police Department when data from a stolen car or known wanted suspect from a state or national crime database is detected in the community. Data is only retained for thirty days and then permanently deleted. The cameras will be used to solve and reduce property and violent crime and will not be used for enforcement of minor traffic or parking violations.
In May, the Village Board approved purchase of a full complement of body worn cameras (BWC) and additional system components, following a BWC pilot program the Village Board initiated for the fiscal year that ended on April 30, 2022. As of January 2023, all Skokie Police officers received BWC training, have been issued and are wearing the cameras.
In February, the Village began using the Smart911 Emergency Notification System to communicate with the community during emergencies. As the system only includes landline phone numbers, the Village launched a campaign to encourage residents to add their mobile phone number and email address to the system to receive calls and text, and email messages. In spring, the Skokie Police Department launched a new Police to Citizen Portal that provides easy-to-use tools for reporting incidents, registering a bicycle, requesting a home security check or watch, reviewing recent crime and arrest reports and much more.
Skokie Fire Department Secures FEMA Grant, Resumes Fire Academy and Establishes American Flag Retirement Box
Among its many accomplishments in 2022, the Skokie Fire Department was awarded more than $372,000 through a FEMA Assistance for Firefighters Grant to purchase new self-contained breathing apparatus.
The popular Citizen’s Fire Academy Program resumed in fall, with residents learning about Fire Department operations and important fire prevention information while participating in numerous hands-on exercises and simulated fire response drills. In late summer, the Fire Department collaborated with the Evanston Fire Department for a half-day “Fire Ops 101” event in which elected officials and staff participated in firefighting drills and exercises.
In the fall, a local Eagle Scout candidate constructed a new American Flag Retirement Box at Skokie Fire Station 16, 7424 Niles Center Road. The American Flag Retirement Box is a location to respectfully dispose of American flags that have become weathered or damaged. The new Eagle Scout’s troop will collect flags from the box on a regular basis and retire them respectfully in accordance with American Flag retirement etiquette protocols.
Village Enters 32nd Consecutive Year of Property Tax Freeze and Issues Pension Obligation Bonds
In December, the Village Board approved a $15.4 million property tax levy request for 2022 which represents the 32nd consecutive year in which the Village Board adopted a levy that is equal to the Village's 1990 property tax levy. In 1990, the Village's share of an average property tax bill was 16 percent; in 2021, the Village's share of an average property tax bill has dropped to 6.14 percent. The property taxes collected by the Village are used for public services and debt service.
Earlier in 2022, the Village issued Pension Obligation Bonds, taking advantage of attractive interest rates to control public safety pension funding well into the future.
Health and Human Services Department continues COVID-19 Response and Resumes Additional Services
Throughout 2022, the Skokie Health and Human Services Department (HHS) continued to provide up-to-date COVID-19 information and vaccination clinics for Skokie residents of all ages in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HHS also resumed numerous health-related clinics and services that were put on hold during the focused pandemic response, including TB testing, adult health screenings, childhood vaccinations and more. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, HHS has administered more than 34,500 COVID-19 vaccines.
The 2022 Partners in Public Health Excellence Awards were given to Heartland Health Centers and Kids First Pediatrics Partners for their strong partnership with the Village’s COVID-19 response.
Village Expands Holiday Observations
For the first time in 2022, the Village observed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as an official holiday and approved adding Juneteenth as an official Village holiday beginning in 2023. Village officials and staff participated in the second annual Juneteenth celebration activities that took place during the third weekend of June.
Get Involved and Stay in Touch!
The Village continued community engagement outreach in 2022, with the Skokie Police and Fire Departments having a table at all Wednesdays on the Green events. In addition, a Village booth at the 2022 Backlot Bash centered on a new Get Involved and Stay in Touch page on the Village website with one-stop for links to apply to serve on a Village advisory board or commission, access Village social media platforms and much more.