A busy corner in Vernon Hills would have a much different look under a proposal to replace an old office building with stores and restaurants.
Chicago-based Centrum Partners LLC wants to demolish the two-story Weiss office building on the northwest corner of routes 60 and 21 near the Westfield Hawthorn shopping center and replace it with three new buildings.
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"It will open that corner substantially," Assistant Village Manager John Kalmar said. "The office building, while prominent on that corner, provides a significant (visual) block," to the mall.
To do that, Centrum will be have to deviate from parking and other requirements on the three-acre parcel, which also is bordered by Ring Road. Village trustees during an informal work session Tuesday gave the concept, which would include a long-sought "white tablecloth" restaurant, a tentative thumbs-up.
"I like the idea of you repurposing the property," Trustee Jim Schultz said.
The 55,000-square-foot Weiss building is obsolete, largely vacant, and doesn't have much character, according to John McLinden, a partner in the firm.
"It's a building from a generation ago," he said. The company has a contract to purchase the property contingent on an "approvable" plan that's financially viable, he added.
Pushing buildings to the perimeter of the property would require setback variations and leave the development with less than the required number of parking spaces. The plan also is not typical of what is seen in the busy commercial area where parking lots are located in the fronts of buildings, trustees were told.
Placing the building at the corner will require "significant architectural quality and details to create a 'signature or statement'" at that location, according to information provided to trustees.
Developers said village parking standards are substantially higher than in other communities, and a study based on the needs of the tenants and peak use times will show that what is proposed would be adequate. Village staff will consider those numbers and compare it to village requirements to determine if there is an acceptable compromise, Kalmar said.
Preliminary plans call for 100- and 220-seat restaurants in separate buildings, as well as a multi-tenant retail building. No specifics were disclosed, although McLinden said they were familiar names. The southern building is proposed to have outdoor seating.
"We do need a white tablecloth restaurant here," Trustee Cindy Hebda said.
Centrum and staff will discuss details in advance of an eventual public hearing before the advisory planning and zoning commission. The village board would have final say.