Plans to replace Hawthorn Mall Sears with restaurants, apartments ready for public airing
The central elements of a long-anticipated $250 million makeover at Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills are moving from planning to practice.
Details of an expansive proposal to demolish the former Sears anchor store will be aired today during a public hearing before the village's planning and zoning commission.
The two-phased plan calls for the entire Sears building and a portion of the former Carson Pirie Scott parcel to be redeveloped with 54,000 square feet of restaurant and retail spaces and 562 luxury apartments.
The advisory panel will consider the application on behalf of the mall's owner, Dallas-based Centennial Real Estate, at 7:30 p.m. at village hall, 290 Evergreen Drive.
Questions likely will arise and some adjustments may be recommended, but village staff members do not anticipate significant changes to the submitted plans.
Details to be presented during the public hearing are the culmination of about 18 months of behind-the-scenes planning and review.
"This is the biggest part of the redevelopment," said Mike Atkinson, Vernon Hills' community development director.
Phase I includes two, 4-story buildings with restaurants and shops on the first floor, and 313 mostly studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments above.
Each building would front what is being described as a "Main Street" extending east to west from Milwaukee Avenue to the main mall building.
An outdoor courtyard would include a pool, barbecues, cabanas and other amenities. An enclosed bridge would connect the buildings north and south of Main Street.
The second phase of the project calls for 249 apartments to the south of Main Street. As in Phase I, concealed parking would serve the shops, restaurants and residents, and an outdoor courtyard would be built.
What's left of the east facade of the mall would be removed and replaced with a new main entrance and spaces for retail and restaurant uses. Those would include a covered area for outdoor dining and views of a new outdoor plaza, according to the proposal.
As described, the plaza would be pedestrian-friendly and create a parklike outdoor gathering place able to be used year-round.
Atkinson said it would feature a "festive, urban look" and is intended to attract people into the mall. Offering a variety of amenities are key to the success of these types of developments, he said.
Centennial is seeking approvals to allow for the mixed-use residential and the site plan, landscaping and architecture. Variations are being sought to the village's sign code, parking requirements, building height and minimum apartment size.
Centennial acquired the 1970s-era mall in late 2015 and has emphasized the company is investing for the long term. It launched what is known as "Hawthorn 2.0" and has taken several steps, including the $6.2 million overhaul of the two-story interior center court.
The public hearing precedes the expected village designation of the bulk of the mall property as a special financing district as an incentive. The amount is being negotiated as part of a redevelopment agreement.