Developer says apartments are best use for long-held property in Vernon Hills

Changing times have prompted a Rosemont-based developer to propose a riverside rental apartment community in Vernon Hills.

Conor Commercial Real Estate is proposing a 288-unit apartment building and 19 rental townhouses on 8 acres between heavily traveled Milwaukee Avenue and the Des Plaines River just north of the American Way intersection.

Conor is part of the McShane Companies, whose affiliates have controlled the property for more than 20 years. The original business plan as well as the village's 2012 comprehensive plan envisioned commercial retail or service type business development.

That company’s view has changed and “we don't believe that constitutes the highest and best use — or even a viable or desirable — use of the site anymore,” according to information submitted to the village.

The company previously developed what is now Brookdale Senior Living immediately north as well as American Hotel Register on Milwaukee Avenue across from this site.

Economic, social, political and financial environments have changed several times but the site’s access to retail and commercial services, major employers, quality schools and recreation in combination with “relative seclusion, privacy and protected views, make for an exceptional residential setting,” according to Michael Fausone, Conor’s senior development manager.

The property is surrounded on two sides by the Captain Daniel Wright Woods Forest Preserve and would be a “distinctive new option for those seeking rental housing in the area who prefer a tranquil, pastoral environment,” Fausone added.

According to Conor, the entire eastern side of the property will be designed to complement the river and forest preserve. A new direct access to the Des Plaines River Trail and bike/pedestrian access to adjoining commercial centers are included in the proposal.

Village officials during an informal review Tuesday agreed with the concept, which will require variations for overall density and height. The main obstacle will be access to the site.

A full-access driveway to busy Milwaukee Avenue at the north end of the development likely wouldn’t be allowed by the Illinois Department of Transportation, according to village staff. Without full access, drivers wanting to go south likely would make U-turns, illegal left turns or turn around elsewhere.

Conor representatives said they would work to determine whether access to the traffic signal at American Way was possible. The proposal moves to a more detailed review as one of several steps.

Apartments have been the residential development of choice in Vernon Hills in recent years with hundreds of units opened at the Everleigh of Vernon Hills and the Atworth at Mellody Farm among others.

Apartments also are a key component of the ongoing redevelopment of Hawthorn Mall. The Domaine with 311 units opened last year and another 250 apartments are planned.

A representative architectural exhibit for a proposed development on 8 acres between Milwaukee Avenue and the Des Plaines River in Vernon Hills. Courtesy of village of Vernon Hills
Site plan of a proposal for a 288-unit apartment building and 19 rental row houses on the east side of Milwaukee Avenue north of American Way in Vernon Hills. Courtesy of village of Vernon Hills
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