What was supposed to be a formality for Wheeling trustees -- kicking plans for the $100 million Town Center to the village's plan commission -- turned into a debate with developers Monday night about whether there will be enough parking for apartment residents, shoppers and Metra commuters.
Urban R2 plans to finally break ground on Wheeling's first downtown east of the train station in December. The schedule calls for construction to begin on a 295-unit apartment building, with proposed rent at $1,300 to $2,700 a month. Eight months later, crews will start building Flix Brewhouse, a movie theater and restaurant that will brew its own beer on-site.
Trustees did agree to send conceptual renderings -- more detailed, engineering plans will come later -- to plan commissioners for their review. Some board members are worried about access to Town Center off Dundee Road and the future of vacant land if developers can't land retailers. The chief complaint Monday, though, was what several trustees called a "good problem": a shortage of parking spaces.
Plans call for 1,289 spaces, 423 short of meeting village standards, Village President Dean Argiris said.
"You're going to need more parking," Trustee Bill Hein told developers.
While Urban Executive Vice President Brad Friedman said he's willing to have an "open discussion" on the issue, he noted developers have already added another level to a now six-story parking garage. And owners of Flix Brewhouse, what will be the chief contributor of Town Center traffic, also have signed off on the number of spaces.
"I understand why you want a lot of parking here," Friedman told the board. "But I also want you to keep in mind that this is a transit-oriented development."
Beyond parking, Wheeling Village President Dean Argiris said he's concerned about traffic congestion around the entrance.
And Trustee Joseph Vito said he's concerned about empty land if developers can't attract tenants for up to nine outlying buildings on Dundee Road and Northgate Parkway.
"I'm just hoping there's something to shift the design concept or at least to fill that space if something does go bad because this is real estate," Vito said. "This is commercial development -- not everything goes the way you want it to, unfortunately."
As part of the village's agreement with Urban R2, Wheeling won't turn over ownership of the so-called building pads until 70 percent are leased. Friedman said Starbucks intends to lease one. Local restaurateurs also are interested.
Excluding Flix Brewhouse, developers have about 60,000 square feet of retail space to fill.
"As we get closer and closer to groundbreaking, the retail tenants will come knocking on the door because everybody wants exclusivity for their particular use," Friedman said.