Vernon Hills residents to discuss concerns about Hawthorn Mall plans

Some Vernon Hills residents are raising questions well in advance of a June 18 open house regarding a planned makeover of the Hawthorn Mall property.

The types of proposed housing and possible village incentives are among concerns expected to be discussed during an informal community strategy session at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Barbara's Bookstore at the mall, north of Route 60 and west of Route 21.

Co-organizers Kim McAuliffe, a longtime resident, and Julie Simpson, a Lake County Board member and former Hawthorn Elementary District 73 board member, have promoted the session on Facebook.

"The purpose of the meeting is to gather interested residents and talk about their thoughts and concerns (about) Hawthorn 2.0," Simpson said. "What I'm hoping to get out of the meeting is an understanding of what parts of the (Hawthorn) plan residents support and what they might want to see changed."

McAuliffe said presenting key points to decision-makers in a clear, concise manner will be important going forward.

Hawthorn 2.0 is a link on the village website intended to provide information and updates regarding proposals, procedures and other aspects of an estimated $200 million makeover of the '70s-era mall by its owner, Dallas-based Centennial Real Estate.

Centennial will host an open house at 5:30 p.m. June 18 in the former Carson's space on the mall's first level. Information regarding the vision and master plan for the redevelopment will be presented, and ideas of how the mall can be transformed into a destination "residents will be proud of" will be accepted, according to the company.

McAuliffe agreed the mall needs work but is concerned about the impact of more housing on District 73.

"Our schools are already overcrowded, and many residents recently worked very hard to get a referendum to pass," she said of the $48.7 million building plan approved by voters in November. "I don't want more housing to hurt the capacity of the schools."

Village Manager Mark Fleischhauer said Centennial is considering options for housing on the mall property, including senior or age-restricted residences, but haven't submitted plans for official review or approval.

"Right now, the only thing we've had is the concept presentation about six weeks ago," he said. The village is "very, very sensitive" to the type of housing and the potential for additional students, he added.

Simpson said the schools need additional revenue but a rumored move by the village to designate the mall area as a tax increment financing district effectively would freeze the amount of property tax received by District 73 for 23 years.

Fleischhauer said there are no specifics to discuss at this point.

"I'm sure there will be some type of an economic (incentive) package but I can't comment because we haven't seen anything yet," he said.

General information about TIF districts will be posted on the village website, he added.

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