Glen Ellyn board receptive to latest apartment project, but design 'too modern' for downtown

  • A rendering shows plans for Avere on Forest, a four-story apartment building with townhouse units fronting Duane Street.

    A rendering shows plans for Avere on Forest, a four-story apartment building with townhouse units fronting Duane Street. Courtesy of the village of Glen Ellyn

  • Developers of a proposed apartment building in downtown Glen Ellyn envision a retail or food kiosk connecting the project to the Prairie Path Park.

    Developers of a proposed apartment building in downtown Glen Ellyn envision a retail or food kiosk connecting the project to the Prairie Path Park. Courtesy of the village of Glen Ellyn

  • A proposed development calls for a four-story residential building at the site of the former U.S. Bank branch and a neighboring office building in downtown Glen Ellyn.

    A proposed development calls for a four-story residential building at the site of the former U.S. Bank branch and a neighboring office building in downtown Glen Ellyn. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, June 2020

 
 
Updated 9/22/2021 8:25 PM

An upscale apartment building across the street from the Glen Ellyn Public Library was completely leased as of last week, months ahead of schedule.

The developers behind the Avere on Duane complex are now focused on their next project in the village: a $36 million residential building that would add 77 units to a flurry of apartment construction downtown.

 

This time around, Chicago-based Reva Development Partners is proposing to convert the old U.S. Bank branch and an adjacent office-residential building into apartments, townhouses and underground parking at Duane Street and Forest Avenue.

If it comes to fruition, the four-story building, dubbed Avere on Forest, would become the fourth large-scale apartment project to move ahead downtown.

The village's plan commission on Thursday night will provide informal feedback on the concept before developers fully flesh out the design.

Glen Ellyn trustees have been generally receptive to the idea of new apartments on the high-profile U.S. Bank site, just steps from the Illinois Prairie Path and within walking distance of a long-planned new Metra train station.

Earlier this week, village board members offered initial support for the building's height, which fits within zoning parameters, and its unique configuration. The H-shaped building enables developers to maximize the number of corner units and courtyard space both in front and back of the complex.

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But some trustees are more lukewarm on the building's architecture and facade compared to the historic flavor of the downtown.

"I do think that the overall design is just -- it's too modern. I don't think we're 'Brigadoon,' said Trustee Kelli Christiansen, referencing the Scottish-set musical. "We need to be open to change and not everything in the village has to be Tudor-esque."

But Christiansen suggested a design more consistent with the look of the Glen Ellyn Civic Center on the other side of Duane Street.

The preliminary plans call for a building clad in a lighter brick to pick up on the lighter exterior of the nearby United First United Methodist Church of Glen Ellyn.

"I do share the view that it is a bit too modern for the village," Glen Ellyn Village President Mark Senak said. "We would like to retain some of the more historical character to the new construction in the village, and I don't see that as an insurmountable task. I think with some good discussion, we can strike that balance."

Senak and other board members encouraged developers to consult with the village's historic preservation commission and to provide a computerized 3-D rendering of the project. Developers responded with a willingness to go back to the drawing board and modify the building elevations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"That can be adjusted," Reva principal Warren James said.

His real estate firm tailored apartments near the library to empty nesters by offering larger floor plans and high-end finishes.

"Avere on Duane has proven the strength of the market with a very rapid lease up while achieving pro forma rents," Reva principals wrote in a Sept. 3 letter to Village Manager Mark Franz.

Developers still see strong demand for luxury rental housing even as other apartments spring up downtown. Compared to recently approved apartment buildings downtown, Avere on Forest would contain much larger units, averaging 1,306 square feet in size.

Average rents are estimated at $3,200 per month. Four of the units would be townhouses fronting Duane Street.

"We continue to feel great about the larger units," Reva principal Matt Nix said.

Developers also are seeking to create a food kiosk, a coffee or Italian ice stand, that would give Prairie Path users a reason to stop and gather at an "underutilized" park. Developers say they're coordinating improvements with park district officials.

Reva also has proposed a "pay-as-you-go" tax increment financing incentive similar to what the village approved for the Avere on Duane project.

In a TIF district, as redevelopment boosts property values, the extra tax revenue that otherwise would go to taxing bodies such as schools and parks can be used to pay for improvements to the area.

Under Reva's request, incremental revenues generated by the project would be returned at a 90-10 split between developers and the village over the remaining 14-year life of the TIF district through 2035. The incentive would amount to roughly $5.3 million, or roughly 15% of the total estimated project costs.

"In order to design the most appropriate building for this location, we have undertaken a more complex building design/structure, which will include 100% below grade parking, raised gardens/amenity areas and many unique architectural features," the Reva letter said. "We are also seeking to redesign and activate the adjacent Prairie Path Park. Due to the increased complexity of the building and the widely publicized general escalation of construction costs, we cannot achieve sufficient returns without utilizing TIF funds to bridge the economic gap."

Franz stressed that the request is preliminary and has not yet been vetted by the village's TIF consultant.

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