Barrington officials Monday will consider giving the developer of a long-awaited downtown redevelopment project at Hough and Main streets the option of building only a single story for stores and restaurants -- doing without a second or third floor for offices.
While hope of an upper-story office tenant hasn't been completely abandoned, representatives of the development partnership said such flexibility would virtually guarantee a groundbreaking by Labor Day.
The proposal still calls for an L-shaped building with an 18,000-square-foot footprint at the southwest corner of Hough and Main, with a one-story, 6,000-square-foot building just west of it.
The only question to be resolved this summer is whether the right office tenant can be found to justify building one or two upper floors, said Bruce Reid, president and chief operating officer of development partner Arthur Hill & Co.
"It just feels like we've got the wind at our backs with potential retail tenants," Reid said. "There is no site in Barrington that is close to as good as this for retail."
Reid said his partnership always knew it was betting on just the right office tenant coming along to fill space on an upper floor or two. He believes the greatest effect the recession had on the project was its impact on the suburban office market.
Jim Magnanenzi and Mike Kozel, recent Barrington village board candidates, have argued against office space in the project, believing that upper floors should be reserved for apartments that provide ready-made downtown shoppers.
Reid said his company is no stranger to residential development and has no personal problem with seeing one on that site. But such a project, to be economically viable, would need to be about six or seven stories tall and likely require underground parking, he said.
Reid added he believes Barrington residents have spoken out against exceeding the current three-story height limit downtown.
Village Manager Jeff Lawler said residents have said clearly at recent town hall meetings and resident surveys they prefer a three-story limit.
The revised one-story option for the project seeks permission for a rooftop deck directly across the street from the Catlow Theatre that could be used for outdoor dining by a potential restaurant tenant in the space below, Reid said.
"This is very close at hand," he said of the project's start. "This is tangible."
Village President Karen Darch said the developer has been discussing the possibility of a one-story option for some time, and the recent filing of a formal proposal for it did not come as a great surprise.
"It's just giving them the flexibility to get started," Darch said. "We definitely want to see this happen ASAP."
The village bought the land for the redevelopment several years ago.
The former Chase Bank and Chuck Hines buildings on the site were demolished in the fall of 2011 and two single-family homes the following spring.