A parcel of St. Charles land once targeted for office and commercial buildings might become the most densely-populated residential area in the city.
Representatives from Schaumburg-based JCF Real Estate told aldermen this week economic times make building rental housing more profitable for both them and the city. Officials originally envisioned more office and retail space similar to what already exists at the overall 50-acre site via a 2008 concept approved by city officials. That's just not going to happen, said JCF Real Estate's Paul Robertson, pointing to the already vacant space on the site.
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"We still would like to do some white tablecloth restaurants out there, but, frankly, that's going to come later," Robertson said. "We thought we'd be doing more office product out there. The economy has changed. Nothing is going the way anyone had hoped. There's been a fundamental shift in the market on the residential side. The for-rent market is still viable."
With that, Robertson's team pitched a concept that calls for as many as 407 rental units on the site, off Main Street, on the city's far west side. That works out to 23.5 rental units per acre for the residential portion of the parcel. The most intense residential density that exists in the city is about 20 units per acre. Neighboring Remington Glen has about 11 units per acre and is still not completely developed. Remington Glen residents spoke against the plan as being too dense and too burdensome on local services such as schools, police and fire.
But aldermen said they're open to the idea of more residential to increase the city's tax base in a down economic time. Indeed, Alderman William Turner said the city doesn't need more office buildings. However, 407 residential units in the proposed space might be too tight a squeeze, he said.
"I'm very concerned about density," Turner said. "At 244 units, all these concerns go away."
Developers said the units would be "high-end" in nature with price points somewhere around $1.50 per square foot. However, JCF representatives said they weren't prepared to discuss how secure financing is for the project or in what order the proposed buildings would be built.
Aldermen said they like the concept just in general terms and want to see more details as they become available. Alderman Cliff Carrignan told JCF not to worry about city requirements to make some of the units fall into price points deemed "affordable housing" even thought doing so allows for a more densely populated project.
"Don't worry about affordable," Carrignan said. "We'll take the cash in lieu of."
Developers have the option of paying the city a lump sum instead of providing affordable housing in the project. Under the current parameters proposed, JCF would pay the city about $300,000 to forego the affordable housing requirement.