Altamanu's woonerf-ful street

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By Ashley Lisenby

Digital Editor

People sitting along a long red brick street talking and eating food from nearby eateries, surrounded by shops with a fluid stream of shoppers going in and out sounds like a familiar scene. Think summer nights on Oak Park's Marion Street. But it can also be found on River Street in Batavia.

The firm that designed the latter, also has a connection with Oak Park.

Principals John Mac Manus and Josephine Bellalta of Altamanu Inc., have also worked on projects in the village: the Scoville Park, Mills Park and Euclid Square rehabs, to name a few.

The difference between River Street and Marion Street (which Altamanu did not design) is that Batavia's downtown hotspot is a communal street or a woonerf (VONE-erf), as the Dutch would call it.

With no curbs, traffic stripes or crosswalks, River Street lives up to the meaning of woonerf — a "living street" where cars, pedestrians, cyclists and business coexist in a shared space. It is the first of its kind in the Midwest, according to the Altamanu team, which recently won an Illinois American Society of Landscape Architects Merit Award for their efforts.

The $2.8 million open-concept street was completed in 2012. Since then, bike racks; three-level water fountains to accommodate adults, children and pets; and new lighting and planters have been installed.

The Tribune reports that Batavia's mayor, Jeffery Schielke, would like to see the street extended when other parts of the riverfront are redeveloped.

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