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Article posted: 2/11/2013 9:16 PM

Apartments, water park on the way at Arlington Downs

By Melissa Silverberg

After years of planning and preliminary work, construction on phase one of the new Arlington Downs development in Arlington Heights will get under way in a few weeks, developers say.

The Argent Group, which owns the 25-acre former Sheraton hotel site near Arlington Park, has been doing exterior work for several months but plans to break ground on the first of two luxury rental apartment towers in early March, said partner David Trandel.

Residents could be moving into the 214 luxury apartments by the end of 2013, he said.

"There have been a lot of positive things that have happened, and everything is moving faster now," Trandel said of recent developments.

The apartments will be developed by Barrington-based Stoneleigh Cos., and the parties are a few weeks away from closing on a $30 million construction loan that will allow interior work to begin. The hotel building will be taken down to nearly its shell and rebuilt out as apartments, Trandel said.

This will be the first Chicago-area development for Stoneleigh and will have amenities similar to those in a downtown Chicago high-rise, Trandel said, including a health club, restaurant and rooftop deck. Stoneleigh was founded in 2008 and has more than 3,000 apartments in Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Arizona.

"It's going to feel hip and cool and not be like the typical suburban apartment. It will feel like you're downtown," Trandel said.

Later parts of the project include expanding the former CoCo Key water park -- adding 10,000 square feet -- and reopening with a smaller hotel for families. Though Trandel can't yet say who will be operating the park, he said it is a major water park operator with locations at Wisconsin Dells and that he expects the deal to be finalized and announced in time for next month's groundbreaking.

Four Points by Sheraton also has been brought on to reopen as a smaller, limited-service hotel on the property, operating by fall of 2014.

The next phase will include bringing in retail and restaurants, such as Prasino, which has already filed a letter of intent for the project. Prasino -- which is the Greek word for "green" -- is a contemporary American restaurant with an eco-friendly philosophy. It already has locations in St. Charles, Chicago and La Grange.

The $250 million redevelopment at Euclid Avenue and Rohlwing Road received its final major approval from the Arlington Heights village board in June.

The hotel closed late in 2009, and the village staff estimates the development, when complete, could give Arlington Heights $1 million annually in sales-type taxes and provide property tax revenue totaling $4.2 million annually for various governments. The village has lost about $507,000 in revenue annually since the hotel closed.

While it may seem like discussion about the project has been going on for years, village officials cautioned that it does take a long time for large projects like Arlington Downs to get off the ground.

"Obviously we're anxious to see things getting going and we're seeing quite a bit of good activity. This is a very large project so everyone has to be a little patient with it getting going," said Charles Witherington-Perkins, the village's director of planning and community development. "We're very excited about it. It will be a terrific redevelopment plan."

The entire project is still on schedule to be completed in the next four years, Trandel said.

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