Can Arlington Heights officials control future of Arlington Park?

  • During their first in-person village board meeting in more than a year, Arlington Heights' mayor and village trustees listened as resident Marc Adelman asked them to do "something different" with the Arlington Park site.

    During their first in-person village board meeting in more than a year, Arlington Heights' mayor and village trustees listened as resident Marc Adelman asked them to do "something different" with the Arlington Park site. Christopher Placek | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/22/2021 1:03 PM

How much say do Arlington Heights village officials have over what happens with the Arlington Park site?

Only some, they emphasized Monday, on a night when the mayor and trustees approved new zoning rules that expressly prohibit certain uses on the 326-acre property.

 

The unanimous voice vote -- at their first in-person meeting since the onset of the pandemic 15 months ago -- formalizes the village board's earlier indications of various undesirable uses during a May 3 virtual meeting. The 23-item list includes adult businesses, car washes, currency exchanges, kiddie parks, funeral parlors and wholesale offices, including warehouses and storerooms.

At the same time, the vote to create a so-called overlay zoning district on the sprawling property does little to actively advance the desires of local officials to see either of two prominent proposals come to fruition: a Chicago Bears stadium or the preservation of the racetrack and grandstand with surrounding redevelopment.

The meeting came four days after the NFL franchise's bombshell announcement that it submitted an offer to track owner Churchill Downs Inc. for the property at Wilke and Euclid roads.

"We don't own or control the property. The village does not," Mayor Tom Hayes said. "The ultimate decision will not be ours. Certainly we'll have some involvement in terms of uses down the road. But the proposals were not submitted to the village of Arlington Heights, but to Churchill Downs through (real estate broker) CBRE. We can only have so much input. As I've said many times, and I think the board agrees, our goal is to put the property to its highest and best use for our community."

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Hayes was responding to resident Marc Adelman's plea to the board to do "something different" with the Arlington Park site. Not more retail or restaurants, Adelman suggested, but not a Bears stadium either.

"Highest and best use doesn't necessarily mean highest and most profitable use," Adelman said. "That's not necessarily the same thing."

In an interview after the meeting, Charles Witherington-Perkins, the village's director of planning and community development, said neither Churchill Downs nor CBRE has given the village the list of offers received. While Churchill has said it received "strong proposals from numerous parties," only the Bears and a consortium led by former Arlington Park President Roy Arnold have publicly revealed that they submitted bids.

Perkins said he expects Churchill and CBRE to narrow the proposals before they meet with village officials.

"At some point we expect to be meeting with them," said Perkins, adding that it could be weeks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

And while it is a private real estate transaction, Perkins said Churchill and its broker are "aware of things we do or don't want to see there."

Though the board approved the list of prohibited uses Monday, Perkins said a small portion of one of those things could later be included as part of a larger master plan for the site.

"We don't know which developer/investor group would move forward to get the property under contract," Perkins said. "This is just the beginning of a long discussion on what the future of the racetrack property could hold."

0 Comments
Related Coverage
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Attention: We are experiencing technical difficulties with our Facebook Comments module at this time. Comments will remain disabled until we are able to resolve the problem. We apologize for the interruption. We invite you to engage with our content and talk with other commenters on our Daily Herald Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DailyHeraldFans/. Thank you.