Rolling Meadows' plan commission voted against a proposal for a senior housing community on the site of the former Dominick's along Kirchoff Road, even though experts say there is "no possibility" that the 11-acre shopping center could be revived for retail use.
Last week's 5-2 vote against the zoning change needed for a housing proposal from South Bay Partners is not binding, however, and the project will be in front of the city council for a vote on July 26.
The property has sat empty for 12 years and is one of the hottest topics elected officials get asked about in town.
"Obviously, we're disappointed," said Adam Arnold, development manager for South Bay Partners, which is proposing a community with 220 rental units for independent living, 45 for assisted living and 20 for memory care. "We would prefer to go into the city council meeting with the plan commission's endorsement, but we are optimistic and we still very much believe in our project."
Rolling Meadows City Manager Barry Krumstok said in a memo that about 35 people attended the plan commission meeting and 14 of them addressed the panel. Residents at previous city meetings have been outspoken about wanting the former Dominick's site to remain available for a retail use. There is also a Facebook page with 90 members called "No South Bay in Rolling Meadows."
Fritz Duda, principal at property owner Clark Street Real Estate, said a retail-based center there is no longer feasible.
"The market has been telling us for more than a decade that this is not commercial property any longer," Duda said. "We've spent years marketing to every active user in the marketplace and it's not happening. People are looking to the past instead of looking to the future."
Duda said the demand for brick-and-mortar retail stores in general is shrinking. "We believe this is a permanent shift in the marketplace, and the impacts on real estate development are just beginning to be realized," he said.
He pointed to the shopping center across the street that houses a Jewel, but already has more than 10,000 square feet of empty space.
"There is not sufficient demand from consumers to support even more retail here," he said. "Adding to supply is not going to help the problem. The conversation needs to be about what is the best residential use for this property and South Bay has a great plan."
A previous developer received a zoning change for the property in 2006 and planned to build a multifamily housing development, but the project fell through during the recession. Arnold said the South Bay project has lower density and will be less intrusive on the community than what was previously approved.
"We love this site, it feels like a good fit for the community," Arnold said. "It would be wonderful to give the citizens of Rolling Meadows a community where they can age in place."
The Rolling Meadows City Council will take up the topic during its meeting at 7:30 p.m. July 26, at city hall, 3600 Kirchoff Road.