New owners of former Sears HQ meet Hoffman Estates business community at mayor’s forum

Hoffman Estates’ business community saw growth on many fronts during 2023, but Dallas-based Compass Datacenters’ purchase of the 273-acre former Sears headquarters was the headline of Mayor Bill McLeod’s annual community update Wednesday.

Speaking before a gathering of the Hoffman Estates Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the mayor introduced representatives of the company to explain their planned repurposing of the site where 2.4 million square feet of vacant office space lies.

McLeod said the company’s investment of billions of dollars would bring benefits to the village for years to come.

“I guess I can’t really convey how happy we are that you’re here, but I’ll try,” he told the Compass representatives. “It’s sad to see the beautiful buildings go, but times change and we have to change with those times.”

  Katy Hancock of Compass Datacenters speaks Wednesday to a gathering of the Hoffman Estates Chamber of Commerce & Industry during the Mayor's Community Update Breakfast at the Now Arena. Brian Hill/

Katy Hancock, vice president of community relations for Compass, said great care would be taken to apply conservation principles to the redevelopment of the site. She dispelled what she called a common myth that data center campuses consume a lot of water, adding that Compass relies on an efficient air-cooling system.

Brett Collard, the company’s vice president of development, said that after months of planning, the demolition of the Sears buildings likely will begin in the late spring.

Compass Datacenters primarily develops its campuses for a single tenant each, and the Hoffman Estates site is likely to follow that pattern, Collard said. Though no specific user was lined up in advance, companies will be in the market for the sprawling site, he added.

Once some construction has been completed and the campus’ power needs have been addressed, the initial phase of the development is expected to become operational in late 2026, Collard said.

In the meantime, the former Sears buildings have been used to stage mock emergencies for training involving 100 firefighters, 300 police officers and 25 police dog from the region, Compass’ Principal of Global Operations John Kozloski said.

  Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod speaks to members of the Hoffman Estates Chamber of Commerce & Industry Wednesday morning at the Now Arena. Brian Hill/

Even before the news about Compass broke last year, Hoffman Estates had been named 2023 Municipality of the Year by the Illinois Real Estate Journal, McLeod said. The recognition came for other successes, including the steady relocation of businesses to Bell Works Chicagoland.

Construction of townhouses and apartments soon will begin at the redeveloped former AT&T headquarters.

Other breakthroughs of the past year include the building of the 296-unit Seasons of Hoffman Estates, the village’s first multifamily residential project in more than three decades; completion of the first of two new 200,000-square-foot data centers for Microsoft; the village’s first two recreational marijuana dispensaries; the first of two Popeyes Louisiana Chicken restaurants; and two new Dunkin’s and a Starbucks, McLeod said.

The village has budgeted $44 million in capital projects for 2024, with the highest-profile being the replacement of Fire Station 21 at 225 Flagstaff Lane, where a groundbreaking will take place later this year at the adjacent Chino Park

  Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod is joined by a video of himself singing a village-specific version of Frank Sinatra’s hit “It Was a Very Good Year” on Wednesday during the Mayor's Community Update Breakfast at the Now Arena. Brian Hill/

Further improvements also are expected for the Virginia Mary Hayter Village Green adjacent to the Now Arena.

Ben Gibbs, the general manager of both properties, said the venues broke records last year in all revenue categories. The Now Arena found itself in the national spotlight when it hosted the Core Hydration Classic gymnastics event in early August that saw Olympian Simone Biles’ return to the sport.

And while the arena — with the NBA G League’s Windy City Bulls as a regular tenant — continues to be a regional draw, Gibbs has high hopes the Village Green and its Hideaway Brew Garden & Bar will be a local hub of fun activities for village residents in place of a centralized downtown.

“We’re getting bigger. We’re adding stuff,” he said. “We’d like this to turn into the gathering place for the community.”

  Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod addresses members of the Hoffman Estates Chamber of Commerce & Industry during the Mayor's Community Update Breakfast Wednesday at the Now Arena. Brian Hill/
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