Long Grove leaders and business owners are optimistic about a downtown revival with the reopening of the village's historic bridge and substantial completion of Robert Parker Coffin Road construction in time for the holidays.
"People can actually drive up to your business and park right in front of it," said John Kopecky, who owns Country House of Long Grove at 430 Coffin Road.
Road construction crews were a fixture in downtown Long Grove since June 2018, when work started on an Old McHenry Road renovation. That was followed about six months ago by the Coffin Road repairs, which forced the bridge shutdown, and a plethora of other improvements.
In addition to upgraded pavement, the downtown has its first streetlights in 181 years on Old McHenry Road, wider sidewalks meeting Americans With Disabilities Act standards, landscaping, a public water main extension and new curbs.
Still missing is a timber cover for the one-lane, 113-year-old Coffin Road bridge over Buffalo Creek that's on the National Register of Historic Places.
The bridge was knocked out of commission when hit by a box truck in June 2018, about a week after it became a national landmark.
Village Engineer Geoff Perry said a second round of construction bids for the cover will be solicited in January, with installation and other bridge repairs expected in spring.
Also coming are vintage-style streetlights on Coffin Road and activation of a traffic signal at Old McHenry and Coffin roads.
With the road construction crews now gone, horse-drawn sleigh rides and carolers will roam freely for Long Grove Vintage Holidays on weekends through Dec. 22. The event is sponsored by the Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association, which is seeking to restore the area as a regional destination.
"I think the buzz is out there that the streetscape in town is in the right direction," said Ryan Messner, vice chairman of the business association's executive committee. "There's been an abundance of businesses, restaurants that have inquired into downtown."
Long Grove has pumped about $8 million into public infrastructure upgrades in an effort to retain and attract downtown businesses. Village President Bill Jacob said he appreciates the downtown businesses owners' patience during the construction.
In September, a celebration was held to turn on the old-time street lamps outside the 172-year-old Village Tavern on Old McHenry.
Trustee Anne Kritzmire said it's been nice to see more downtown visitors since the bridge and Coffin Road reopened to traffic a couple weeks ago.
"The streetscape is all in place and now the bridge is open," Kritzmire said. "There's still more do to, but it's like we want to open it up for the whole holiday season and say, 'Hey, come on back.'"