Mayor says redevelopment is changing the face of Elk Grove Village
From refurbishing old shopping centers to building new data centers, Elk Grove Village will continue to look different from the old days, Mayor Craig Johnson said Thursday.
"We are aware of the changing world. I talk to mayors all the time. Sometimes the mayors get entrenched in the old ways of doing things. We stay on top of that," said Johnson, the 25-year mayor, told a business luncheon crowd Thursday during his annual State of the Village address.
"We're constantly thinking what's the new needs for tomorrow," Johnson continued. "I grew up in Elk Grove, and there was nothing but printers and tool and die. That's it. That's all we had in Elk Grove. Now we've got data centers. We've got technology."
One prime example of the changing face of Elk Grove is just down Rohlwing Road from Belvedere Banquets, the site of Johnson's speech.
Village officials revealed at a community meeting late last week that three data center buildings are proposed for a 35-acre portion of WGN radio's 100-acre transmitter site on Rohlwing Road/Martingale Road. Plans call for the AM radio station's 250-foot and 750-foot towers to be moved to the north end of the property to make way for the 1 million-square-foot data center campus on the south end.
In an interview after the speech, Johnson said he's been meeting with WGN's parent company, Nexstar Media Group, for about a year and a half. The company initially proposed a trucking/logistics firm development. Johnson said that wouldn't be a good fit -- with 125 single-family homes bordering the property on the south and west -- and Nexstar agreed to revise the plans, eventually bringing forward the data center idea. Nexstar plans to petition the site for annexation into the village.
Elk Grove has become the data center hub of the Midwest, with nearly a dozen of the computer storage sites totaling 3.5 million square feet of space calling the village home. In a few years, that number is expected to jump to 6 million square feet, Johnson said.
"It's a great use for our community," he told the crowd. "It provides great property tax. It provides even better electric tax. And it's not much impact. They have almost no trucks, and not very many employees. So our roads don't get beaten up. ... It's like a perfect neighbor if you're looking for something to come behind you that's changed what you had before."
On the other side of town -- at the northern entryway -- the village is eyeing the southeast corner of Arlington Heights and Higgins roads for redevelopment. It's where Elk Grove Bowl closed in April and the village board set up a new tax increment financing district to fund development efforts last month. Officials are envisioning a mixed-use development of apartments and retail.
When the bowling alley and neighboring shopping center went up for sale -- and the village agreed to pay $12.7 million for the properties last December -- Johnson said it was a golden opportunity to shape a new development at a prime intersection.
"Hallmarks are not in every strip shopping center anymore. The (Bath) and Body Works are not in a strip shopping center anymore. They're going away. Retail use like that's going away," he said. "The problem is what do you do with that? ... That will not be the only location in Elk Grove that's going to see that kind of conversion. And I'll tell you this for a fact: We won't be the only town pushing this."