Adoption of the Ottawa Downtown Plan does not mark the end of the comprehensive planning process. Rather, it should be viewed as the beginning of the real effort to achieve the community vision. This document has identified numerous implementation strategies in each of the various plan elements needing to be initiated and completed. Many of these implementation strategies will be ongoing activities. All of the implementation strategies will require the City to commit various resources to the effort.

The intent of this chapter is to describe a series of initiatives the City can undertake to help achieve the community vision. Achieving this vision requires the effort of all segments of the community. The City government is but only one small part of this effort. Other participants in the effort to achieve the community vision must include the business community, local developers, other local governments, local institutions, community and service organizations, and Ottawa residents themselves.

Implementation of the Ottawa Downtown Plan will require a blend of proactive and reactive activities and approaches. Proactive measures would be those in which the City initiates the action or change such as through public initiative, code change, or some public improvement. Reactive measures are those in which the City is presented a proposal by other parties requiring action or a decision by the City. The City’s development review process is one example of a reactive measure. This chapter identifies only the proactive measures since it is only these the City can control.

The Ottawa Downtown Plan is a dynamic document and requires ongoing maintenance in order to remain an effective policy tool. Periodic review and appraisal of the Plan is recommended to protect the Plan from becoming obsolete and unused. It is recommended that the Ottawa Downtown Plan and various maps be reviewed approximately every year. Monitoring can identify when the assumptions used in the preparation of the Downtown Plan appear to be at odds with reality. It can also identify whether external or market pressures suggesting change should be responded to. When a problem is identified, the Downtown Plan must be adjusted, amended or revised. Too many communities begin to diverge from their plan without identifying the problem and, in so doing, discredit the plan.

The Plan should not be revised on a whim. Nor should the Plan be considered the absolute final word. It is difficult and, sometimes, bewildering for communities to engage in a large number of plan implementation initiatives. The ability to sustain numerous ongoing implementation measures is difficult for most communities. The recommended approach to plan implementation is to establish priorities in order to focus the City’s resources and energy on accomplishing the most important initiatives first. Following are sixteen initiatives identified by the Plan Commission as implementation strategies.

The first two implementation strategies (revisions to the Zoning/Subdivision Regulations and completion of a Traffic Study) are the two highest priority tasks identified. It will be necessary to update both the Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances to effectively implement both the Comprehensive Plan and the Downtown Plan in a manner that will support the goals, objectives and the visions of each document. The Traffic Study for Ottawa’s Downtown is necessary in order to begin the process of evaluating changes required to modify traffic patterns and restore LaSalle Street to a two-way roadway with improved parking and pedestrian atmosphere.

LaSalle Street













Mural on LaSalle Street






Parking Example




Proposed Festival
Park Area







Examples of Riverfront Improvements



Example of Existing


Example of Proposed










Original Architecture—
Northeast corner
of Clinton Street and Madison Street


Photo Simulation—
Northeast corner of
Clinton Street and
Madison Street


Example of Rowhouses

Revise Zoning and Subdivision Regulations

The City will need to revise the City Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Ordinance in order to make them consistent with the recommendations of the Ottawa Downtown Plan. New ordinance regulations should be created and adopted to allow the types of special zoning considerations necessary to evolve Ottawa’s downtown as envisioned. Updated regulations will need to consider mixed-use structures, vertical zoning regulations, and parking standards that may be addressed at a municipal level.

Zoning Ordinance Revisions

  • Zoning map needs to be corrected and updated
  • Nomenclature for zoning districts needs to be revised
  • Establish residential and commercial Planned Unit Development (P.U.D.)
  • Residential zoning standards: review lot area, setbacks, building types, bulk regulations and building height
  • Business districts: review building types, parking area requirements, opportunities for mixed-use buildings, review permitted and conditional uses
  • Sign ordinance: standards to regulate size, lighting and aesthetics of downtown signage
  • Create incentives through zoning to promote investment in the downtown
Detailed Traffic Study

A traffic study must be completed for the Downtown area to quantify traffic movement and directions. This study will be utilized to proceed with a detailed design to move the southbound Illinois Route 23 transient traffic to Clinton Street and to make the modifications to LaSalle Street as described in previous chapters.

Adopt the Strategies of the Main Street Program

Main Street Programs are designed to improve all aspects of the downtown or Central Business District. Improving the economic management, strengthening public participation, and making downtown a fun place to visit are as critical to the Main Street or downtown’s future as recruiting new businesses, rehabilitating buildings, and expanding parking. Main Street programs build on the downtown’s assets, architecture, personal service and traditional values.

Organization: building consensus and cooperation among public and private groups and individuals, and identifying sources of funding for revitalization activities;

Design: enhancing the district’s physical appearance through building rehabilitation, compatible new construction, public improvements, and design-management systems;

Promotion: marketing the commercial district through events and advertising to attract customers, potential investors, new businesses, residents, and visitors;

Economic Restructuring: strengthening the district’s economic base and creating new opportunities through careful analysis and appropriate mixed-use development.

Detailed Parking Survey

A detailed parking survey must be completed on a block-by-block basis to determine the needs for expanding or revising parking. This survey will also provide data on the best location of future parking lots/decks.

Detailed Architectural Survey

A detailed architectural survey must be completed by a licensed architect on a block-by-block basis to gain a comprehensive analysis of individual structures. This analysis will provide data to make decisions on issues related to rehabilitation, remodeling, adaptive re-use or building replacement.

Design Guidelines

Following the completion of the detailed architectural survey, architectural guidelines must also be completed to establish standards for exterior building designs to be harmonious with the Victorian Era original Main Street in Ottawa. These guidelines should educate owners and designers about the history and content of Ottawa’s Main Street building heritage, and establish criteria for building facade massing, proportion and window placement. The guidelines should address both preservation issues and design of new structures. The design of new structures should allow for contemporary expression of design and detailing, while making allowances for compatibility with existing historic structures.

Riverfront Greenway Plan

An assessment of the existing conditions of the riverfront, defining the eastern and southern boundaries of the downtown area, should be completed. A detailed comprehensive riverfront plan should be assembled to identify potential public acquisitions, potential for additional trail connections from the river edges to the downtown pedestrian walks and opportunities to create and enhance key views from the downtown to the rivers. A comprehensive riverfront plan should address proposed re-use and enhancement of the riverfront to include new and upgraded park areas, and public spaces for events and entertainment. Consideration should be given to an adaptive reuse/redevelopment of the Central School site if the property becomes available. The Central School building and site could include a conversion into restaurants, a cultural civic center, corporate offices, or a combination of each. The rest of the site could be converted into multifamily residential and or single-family residential developments with a marina along the north bank of the Illinois River.

Streetscape Improvements

Streetscape improvements should be continued and expanded on a block-byblock basis on the major block of the downtown. This can be accomplished by adding street trees, street furniture, landscaping where possible and civic art, and creating guidelines to promote attractive signage.

Facade Improvement Program

Initiate a facade improvement program on a block-by-block basis. This begins with completion of architectural assessments and preliminary facade design of an entire block of building facades. A program is then developed to create design and construction standards and to define the private/public partnership. Many times the public sector will produce the preliminary architecture designs, and then provide a matching grant to assist a property owner with facade improvements. This incentive program can be very successful to initiate improvements in a manner that insures that improvements will contribute to the streetscape.

Loan Program

The Downtown Ottawa Comprehensive Loan Program should be promoted to inform businesses of the potential financial assistance that has been offered by local banks. The Loan Program is a new project initiated by Ottawa Savings Bank, First Federal Savings Bank, Yorkville National Bank, First National Bank of Ottawa and Union Bank. The five banks have agreed to provide a pool of loan funds to encourage individuals to invest in the downtown area. The program encourages local businesses and building owners to rehabilitate their buildings or to develop new properties in the downtown TIF district of Ottawa. The Downtown Ottawa Comprehensive Loan Program offers applicants loans at attractive terms. This program places these five local financial institutions at the forefront of the development in the downtown area and further demonstrates their commitment to the revitalization of downtown Ottawa.

Apartment Licensing Program

An apartment licensing program should be adopted to establish minimum criteria for apartment uses in terms of occupancy ratings and building code standards. A licensing program allows the city to maintain a list of property owners or managers for each building, maintain a map of the location and quality of apartments, and to understand the inventory of existing rental units to assist decision making for creating new rental units within the downtown area. The Apartment Licensing Program is implemented by having all residential rental property owners complete a survey to verify compliance with building code standards. The survey also includes information about the number of units, the number of occupants, the owner or manager contact information as well as other relevant data. Apartments are periodically inspected to ensure compliance to building codes and licensing regulation as adopted by the city.

Downtown Management Program

A program should be developed to coordinate and manage the downtown area, to collectively promote the downtown shops, promote special events, and provide input in land use and redevelopment decisions. It should also assist business owners in promoting services and products, develop a plan for coordinated snow removal (including snow removal in front of vacant buildings), develop a plan for the installation and ongoing maintenance for landscaping including urban forestry for tree installation and maintenance.

Eventually a part time or full time downtown manager position could be established. This position and related office needs can be permanently funded by establishing a Special Service Area (SSA) tax. This SSA tax is paid by property owners within a defined boundary, and is voted on by the effected owners. A Business Improvement District (BID) is similar to an SSA as described above. A BID is also a revitalization tool in which property owners in a commercial area agree to levy an assessment on their properties to generate revenue to pay for capital improvements or for services above and beyond those provided by local government.

Design Review Process

The City established a development design review process on March 5, 2002. Ordinance number 09-2002 created a design review committee and provided procedures for its operation. The Design Review Committee was established with a Building Department Official, Director of Community Development, City Engineer, City Planner, Water Department Assistant Superintendent, Sewer Department Assistant Superintendent, Street Department Assistant Superintendent, Police Chief, Fire Chief, a member of the Plan Commission, a member of the Tree Board, and an architect appointed by the Mayor and approved by the Council for two years.

The purpose of the Design Review Committee is to encourage high quality design of new residential, commercial and industrial developments for the advancement of aesthetic values and the general health, safety and welfare of the citizens of, and visitors to, the City of Ottawa. The Plan Commission and City Council should evaluate this Committee and review standards to maintain the quality the City is trying to achieve. The Design Review Committee should strive to be proactive in offering design solution alternatives when required. Consideration should be given to establishing residential and commercial Planned Unit Development (P.U.D.) Ordinances to allow the outcome of the design review process to be continued further in the zoning approval process.


Planning and Development Department

The City has hired a full time City Planner to be a member of the staff. The Planner is required to handle a variety of assignments in this department including code enforcement, preparing and implementing planning programs, and assisting the City Council and Plan Commission on issues related to proposed developments and applications. The Planner will also write staff reviews on projects and applications dealing with zoning to help guide the City Council and Plan Commission.

Create And Maintain City’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP)

Because the capital improvement plan, or program, is intended to guide the City’s investments in infrastructure and capital outlays over the foreseeable future, this budgeting tool should be established and updated regularly. The capital improvement plan usually contains a detailed estimate of facilities’ costs and a prioritizing of the most critical needs over an extended period of time, usually five or six years. The City Council and administration consults the capital improvement plan during preparation of the City’s annual operating budget in order to fund the highest priority projects.

This approach allows the City to determine its long-term capital investment needs and budget accordingly. This planning process also allows the City to identify and evaluate the best sources or methods of funding specific projects. Many of the implementation strategies identified in the Comprehensive Plan are directly related to the capital improvement program.


Although the Downtown Plan is an adopted policy document, changing conditions and community values will make it necessary to re-examine the various goals and objectives and implementation strategies included in it. Technical data will be updated as new information becomes available. It is good practice to review and update the Downtown Plan periodically, and the Plan Commission should make it its mission to review the Plan every year and report to the City Council whether changes or amendments should be considered.

It is possible that a proposal could be made to the City which is not consistent with the Plan, but which is viewed as desirable and appropriate by the City Council and community. In such a case, if it is obvious that the Plan does not accurately reflect a new goal or objective, it may be necessary to amend the Plan. To the extent that the City Council adopts other policies affecting land use or the City’s goals and priorities change, the Plan should be amended.