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Article updated: 12/18/2012 6:18 AM

Barrington approves retail-office project

By Steve Zalusky

After listening to the remarks of a skeptical public, the Barrington village board voted overwhelmingly Monday night in favor of a retail-office development at the southwest corner of Hough and Main streets.

There were no dissenting votes, although the tally was not unanimous because of the absence of Trustee Robert Windon.

Speaking on behalf of the proposal, Village President Karen Darch said the board, the architectural review commission and the plan commission have given the project careful consideration. She added that the project will go back for review if there is a third-story component.

Darch said the development is the culmination of a process over many years that involved master planning for the downtown, the creation of a TIF district and the assembly of downtown parcels.

"I think it's important to stress that this is not a 17-day project, as someone referred to in an earlier meeting," she said.

The proposal calls for an L-shaped building with an 18,000-square-foot ground floor on the southwest corner of Hough and Main streets, with a single-story 6,000-square-foot building just west on Main Street.

The larger building could be either two or three stories tall depending on the amount of office space leased before construction begins.

Criticism from the public during the meeting focused on the office component of the project. Critics insisted the suburban office market is shrinking, while saying there is a much more fertile market for residential.

"The vacancies in the office market out here are tremendous," said speaker Lane Moyer, who added, "There seems like such a push to get this project done."

But Bruce A. Reid, president and chief operating officer of the developer, Arthur Hill & Co. LLC, disagreed with the skeptics, saying Barrington offers powerful advantages.

"We like our chances. If a tenant wants 9,000 square feet or more and they want those amenities and they want to be downtown and they want some room to grow, we think we satisfy what they are looking for and we don't think they have choices available. They have to go someplace else," Reid said.

Reid emphasized that the redevelopment agreement contains thresholds the developer must meet for leasing.

"The white elephant risk is mitigated, because if we don't have tenants, we don't get to start building," he said.

"What are our odds? The fact is it's moot. It doesn't really matter whether we're right or whether we're wrong. We're either right and it goes or we're wrong and it doesn't go."

Not all the comments from the public were in favor of residential.

Jack Schaefer said he feels residential would be inappropriate for the site and would, in fact, be quite massive. He said it would be more appropriate for retail.

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