BARRINGTON – Area residents voiced concern over what is to become the "Village Center" at Hough and Main Streets in downtown Barrington during a special village plan commission meeting Wednesday evening.
Prior to the commission's approval Wednesday of the one-story amendment to a two-story office space and retail development plan, several residents stated that they would rather the village continue to hold off on the project until a better alternative is proposed – such as a residential complex or community park.
Longtime resident architect Ronald Flubacker said a housing development would "go like popcorn" in the heart of Barrington.
"This project is a failure," Flubacker said. "What the village needs is a solid, mixed-use development on this site. A big timeout needs to be taken here to rethink this entire thing. If properly scaled, a three-story residential and retail mix would have developers popping out of the woodwork to get involved."
The amendment, a one-story, 25,000 square-foot restaurant and retail development, is yet to be approved by the architectural review commission and village board. The commission meets Thursday; the village board on May 19.
Lane Moyer, a Barrington property owner and Deer Park resident, echoed Flubacker's request to "rethink" the project.
"A residential downtown would drive up the night life," Moyer said. "People are getting on and off the train. Other train communities, like Palatine, have residential buildings."
Plan commissioner Dan Hogan said the commission's focus is on whether or not they would "approve an amendment to a retail project that has already been approved by the village board – not deciding whether or not to pull the project."
Hogan said residents have previously spoken out against the "mass" of Village Center plans and a large-scale residential property would be "gravely objected by even more people."
"Given what we were being asked to consider, I think it was a good choice," Hogan said.
In 2012, village officials approved Evanston-based development team, Envision Realty Advisors and Arthur Hill & Co., to create 55,000 square feet of mixed-use retail and office spaces with three buildings to be built as high as three stories. The developers were to recruit retail and restaurant businesses to occupy first-story space along with office tenants for upper levels.
Arthur Hill & Co. President Bruce Reid told plan commission members Wednesday that the plan has changed.
The developers would like to remove the idea of the upper floors since they "have solid restaurant and retail interest set for the first floor and the appropriate time to build is approaching quickly," Reid said.
Jennifer Tennant, assistant director of village services, said the amendment would include 125 public parking spaces and the same landscape, signage and light plans as the 2012 proposal.
Tennant added that developers are asking for the amendment to be approved in addition to the original plan so that additional stories may be built if office space interest picks up.
Reid said office space negotiations are on-going, but the construction date is driven by the need to deliver to retailers.
"We don't want to miss the retail opportunity if it's there," Reid said.
Reid said all three buildings are to be built at once, with six to eight months of construction beginning by Labor Day. He said upper stories cannot be added once the first story is complete. Barrington-based Pepper Construction will be charged with the build project, as originally planned, according to Reid.
Under the amendment, residents can expect 10 (or slightly more) tenants to occupy the village center, Reid said.
"We aren't disclosing who the tenants will be, but it would be right to expect a technology store, apparel stores, service businesses and a cafe," Reid said.
Reid said there will be a focus on "fast, casual restaurants," with the Main Street building (across from the Catlow Theater) including a high-end restaurant with a roof-top deck.
"We 'heavied' up on the food tenants so that the development is a 'gravity maker' for Barrington," Reid said.
Other residents, such as Mike Kozel said the proposed one-story development will divide up business that is already in the area.
"This is just a little strip center," Kozel said. "What are we going to get out of this as a village? Downtown retailers are just going to move from their current spots and leave vacancies in their place."
Reid would not comment on whether or not interested retail tenants are current Barrington businesses.
"I appreciate the level of public interest," Reid said. "This is a great residential site, but it's also a great retail site. There isn't another retail site as good as this in Barrington. However, there are privately owned residential sites in the village that would be just as good, plus underground residential or deck parking would get expensive for the village if this was a residential project."
Village Manager Jeff Lawler too said a residential project would be expensive.
Lawler said the only village cost to this project is the public parking lot.
"The development is going to be built on village-owned land but it's the developers' cost to build out the land. We serve the lease," Lawler said.
Lawler said most of the tax produced by the Village Center will go toward the Barrington 220 School District, and it's unlikely village board members will move toward a residential plan at their May 19 meeting since "the goal has always been retail."
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Find more Village Center information at www.barringtonvillagecenter.com.
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If you go
What: Barrington Village Board meeting
When: 8 p.m. Monday, May 19
Where: Barrington Village Hall, 200 S. Hough St.
More info: Visit www.barrington-il.gov for agenda and information