“The idea is to create a community”: Arlington Heights eases way for southern town center on Algonquin

With an eye toward creating a town center at the southern gateway of Arlington Heights — whose density would mirror that of the village's downtown — village trustees Monday agreed to loosen zoning standards that could help pave the way.

The so-called overlay district, approved on a 8-0 vote, covers 17 acres on the southeast corner of Arlington Heights and Algonquin roads that the village and a developer envision for a mixed-use area of multifamily homes, entertainment, restaurants, offices and possibly a hotel.

It could still take years for the development to come to fruition, but the loosened zoning rules — allowing taller buildings, requiring less parking and calling for more pedestrian-friendly features — is one step in the process.

“It's a long process,” said Jeffrey Bernstein, principal and co-president of Bradford Allen, a Chicago-based commercial real estate firm that owns several properties on the corner and is working with a master developer. “The idea is to create a community there.”

Bradford Allen acquired its first building on the corner in 2006 — a five-floor office building and drive-through bank — then bought a shuttered Applebee's restaurant and Cash for Gold business. In March, the company closed on the purchase of the former five-story Daily Herald office complex.

While Bradford Allen doesn't own Guitar Center or a nearby one-story, 150,000-square-foot office complex — both of which are included in the overlay — the company has reached out to the owners. Still, Bernstein says he believes there's at least enough “critical mass” to begin working on actual development plans, ahead of making a formal submission to the village.

While not revealing specifics after the village board meeting Monday, Bernstein said his concept is for a town center development that emphasizes walkability, where residents could walk out their doors and go downstairs to shop and dine.

“It's not your traditional strip center,” he said.

The less restrictive zoning rules approved by the village board include building heights up to 200 feet — downtown Arlington Heights allows up to 140 feet — and sidewalks that would be set back 8 to 10 feet from the curb instead of right next to the major arterial streets. The new rules also call for 1.5 parking spaces per one-bedroom unit, and one space per studio unit, though village code otherwise requires two parking spaces per residential unit.

“We feel this is a good approach when it comes to density,” said Charles Witherington-Perkins, the village's director of planning and community development.

He added that the village has retained two consultants: one to do a traffic study and recommend traffic-calming elements that could be installed, and the other that is working on an economic study to see what tools could be available, such as a tax increment financing district, where property taxes above a certain point go into development rather than to local governments, or special service area, in which an extra property tax would be levied, to help facilitate the development.

A vision of a '24/7 atmosphere' at the corner of Algonquin, Arlington Heights

A map shows the 17-acre overlay zoning district at the southeast corner of Arlington Heights and Algonquin roads approved Monday by the village board. Officials say the loosened zoning standards could prime the area for redevelopment. Courtesy of Village of Arlington Heights
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