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updated: 1/21/2014 11:51 PM

Prospect Hts. mayor optimistic about apartment proposal

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Although three of Prospect Heights' five aldermen express reservations about a large upscale apartment complex proposed for the property where HSBC once stood, the company will continue to seek approval, Mayor Nick Helmer said this week.

The Finger Cos. wants to build the apartments on about eight of the 31 acres that Allstate Insurance Co. owns at 2700 Sanders Road, west of Sanders Road and south of Palatine/Willow roads. The insurance company's headquarters is across Sanders Road in Northbrook.

The land is zoned for offices, but Finger will make a request for a special use for the eight acres during the city's Plan/Zoning Board of Appeals meeting at 7 p.m. today. The council could take up the issue at its Jan. 27 meeting.

Helmer, who is excited about the project, said he still hopes for a "rational decision" from the council. Alderman Patrick Ludvigsen, 4th Ward; Scott Williamson, 3rd Ward; and Bree Higgins, 5th Ward, all spoke against the project at last week's city council meeting, although City Attorney Mike Zimmerman urged them to avoid talking about the merits of the project before the zoning board has acted.

Ludvigsen said he likes the apartments but wants a plan for the entire 31 acres so the site is not developed piecemeal.

"It's one of the last large sites in Prospect Heights," he said. "I think we should do more to ensure it is developed properly. We have no guarantee what will happen next. That's what scares me the most."

Helmer said if the homes are built, the sales tax producing businesses that aldermen want to see there will come for the residents.

Helmer said there is no upscale rental property in Prospect Heights.

"This one and Ultra (a grocery store that just opened in a long-vacant building) are the best (proposals) I have ever seen, certainly in my lifetime," he said. "We have a great opportunity before us. Please do not let it slip through our fingers."

Steve Skiber, the city's director of building and zoning, said the project should bring in at least $150,000 annual revenue from taxes such as motor fuel, income and vehicle stickers, in addition to $650,000 for one-time permit fees on $60 million to 80 million in construction.

Opponents say the city would have to hire additional staff, including a police officer, to provide services to the new residents.

"We don't prosper from just residential; we prosper from mixed use," Williamson said.

Ludvigsen said he would not mind if development of the property is delayed.

"This is our community," he said. "We should expect more. If it doesn't happen today, that's OK. If it happens in 10 or 20 years, that's OK."

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