Upscale steakhouse planned in Vernon Hills as part of Hawthorn 2.0 mall redevelopment

Plans for an upscale, yet-to-be-named steakhouse on the perimeter of Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills have whetted the appetite of village officials.

“I'd say it's a home run,” Trustee David Oppenheim said this week during a village board discussion of a proposed 339-seat restaurant on Milwaukee Avenue at Ring Road on the northeast portion of the mall property.

An 11,500-square-foot restaurant featuring multiple private dining rooms is being proposed by mall owner Centennial Real Estate as part of its ongoing $252 million reinvention of the 1970s-era mall and adjoining areas.

“Bringing something like this increases our chance of getting an Apple store and other things” as part of that process, Oppenheim added.

“You're on the money with that,” responded Jon Meshel, Centennial's senior vice president for development. “It's a big deal for us.”

The restaurant is the first announced for one of three outlots along Milwaukee Avenue created as part of the Hawthorn 2.0 redevelopment.

“It's a high-end, award-winning steakhouse,” said Brian Zielinski, project manager for an unnamed client with locations across the country.

He said the restaurant would have a “modern fine-dining atmosphere” in keeping with the brand's image and style.

“I promise you, it's worth all the effort that's going on here,” he said of the initial anonymity.

The single-story building has a covered entry and would be clad in large, cream-colored tile with large volumes of glass on the north and west sides.

The plan calls for 291 indoor and 48 outdoor seats in a 1,000-square-foot patio featuring two fireplaces. Valet service will be provided.

“We're really pleased with the architecture of this building,” said Mike Atkinson, the village's community development director. “It's a very visible location on the mall campus.”

The site is across Milwaukee Avenue from the Mellody Farm retail center, which opened in October 2018. Mellody Farm is anchored by Whole Foods and features a dozen restaurants.

Zielenski said his client was excited to come to Vernon Hills.

“With Mellody Farm and all the development at Hawthorn it's a perfect fit,” he said.

The plan was presented as a concept and faces detailed staff review and a public hearing before returning to the village board for approval.

Meshel said the restaurant would open as soon as possible, if approved. Restaurants also are envisioned for the other two outlots, according to Atkinson.

Hawthorn 2.0, which is focused on creating a Main Street-style entry called Hawthorn Row on and around the former Sears anchor store space, is progressing well, he added.

Work on the parking structure, steel and structural components for the first floor of the retail/restaurant portion and framing for 313 luxury apartments is underway.

The planned second phase of Hawthorn 2.0 calls for redevelopment of the former Carson's anchor space for a mix of retail and 250 apartments.

Demolition is expected to begin soon with a public hearing on this part of the development expected in four to six weeks, Atkinson said.

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The proposed second phase of a $252 million reinvention of Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills will require the demolition of the former Carson's anchor store and the relocation of Dave and Buster's for a mix of retail uses and 250 apartments. Courtesy Village of Vernon Hills
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