In an environment where traditional stores are challenged by online shopping, developers say they have to be different to stand out from other suburban centers.
So it is with the Mellody Farm retail center being built at the northeast corner of routes 60 and 21 in Vernon Hills.
As the first foundations recently were poured for the retail portion of the $200 million project, developer Regency Centers this week received approval for what was described as a dramatic change for the two free-standing signs potential customers will see.
Regency has promised an experience unique to suburban centers, and is shifting away from the original farm theme for those main roadside signs to advertise the center and the tenants.
"It was very traditional the way it was. We wanted to do something new, something bold to match the architecture," Matt Hendy, vice president and regional officer for Regency Centers Corp., told the village board. The Florida-based company owns, operates and develops shopping centers in the U.S.
The double-sided signs will include a Mellody Farm identification at the top with exposed white neon lettering on a satin black background. The "retro angled" sign supports are red and made of distressed corrugated aluminum panels made to look like a patchwork of vintage signs.
The project design and other details were approved after 18 months of review, negotiation and revision regarding the mix of high-end apartments and a 272,242-square-foot shopping center anchored by Whole Foods.
Village officials had to decide whether the proposed change to the multi-tenant signs was in keeping with the overall concept and intent of the project.
The original sign design was "too predictable," according to Hendy.
"It's different from any suburban center you've ever been to and we felt the brand needed to change, the signs needed to change and the colors needed to change," he said.
Trustees unanimously favored the switch with minor observations, such as the shade of red.
Building Commissioner Mike Atkinson said both signs lend themselves to the building architecture, which he described as a combination of "an industrial or a deconstructed warehouse feel" and "retro, hip '50s look."
"This is 100,000 times better than the initial sign," said Trustee Craig Takaoka. "We definitely want a more urban feel. You want to change it up."