There's been interest in redeveloping former Sears HQ, Hoffman Estates trustees say
There's been interest recently in redeveloping the former Sears headquarters in Hoffman Estates, but a potential buyer could not line up the financing to make it happen.
Village trustees revealed that and discussed the redevelopment potential of the 2.4 million-square-foot office complex and surrounding 120 acres during a Daily Herald interview with candidates in the April 4 election.
Trustees Anna Newell, Gary Pilafas and Gary Stanton are seeking reelection April 4. They're facing a challenge from retired Hoffman Estates police lieutenant Mark Mueller.
Stanton and his fellow incumbents spoke of the proactive role village Economic Development Director Kevin Kramer has been playing to find a new user for the land since owner Transformco put it on the market in early 2022.
"There was a buyer, at one point just recently, who could not come up with the funds necessary to complete the deal," Stanton said. "Whether or not they can go back to their banking system and figure out how to do it, I don't know. We'll see. However, there are other people that might be interested, and that's what Kevin is trying to work on."
Stanton said he would like to see people living or working on the land. "And that's my goal," he said. "To get it sold, to get it done and approved, and we go from there."
But he said he doubts that a reuse of the existing complex is feasible in the same way that New Jersey-based Somerset Development is turning the smaller former AT&T campus into the Bell Works Chicagoland "metroburb."
Pilafas also is skeptical of anyone being in the market for so much office space, but he said there's a possibility of a private-public partnership.
"We do have something on the table," Pilafas said. "It is being worked at the county level right now for taxation and what the county can do. The group that's looking at redeveloping that site commissioned about a seven-figure study with ComEd to figure out do they have the power and the things they want and need to redevelop in the manner that they're looking to develop."
He added that the entity as looking for partners.
"Anything we can do as a municipality to remove barriers of entry and redevelopment definitely speeds things up," Pilafas said. "So, that's what we're hard at work doing."
Newell echoed her colleagues' faith in Kramer to find a new purpose for the land, whether or not it is for the entity currently the lead candidate for developing it. Leaving the site inactive is not an option the village is content with, she said.
"It is in the forefront as one of our things that needs to be taken care of for our village," Newell said. "So it's not on the back burner."
Mueller also expressed admiration for Kramer, but he said the village board's efforts should not be all in one direction.
"Now, what could go there?" he asked. "One of my best friends is one of the number one land developers in the state right now. And I asked him, what would you do with that, thinking outside the box? ... He said, just off his head, I think that's a perfect spot for a Division III-type college. You put a college in there, you put housing around it, you can still deal with the businesses and things around there. You have Plote across the street if you need to build some sort a sports-type complex."
While the question of who would pay for something like that remains, the idea is a good enough one to move on to that level of analysis, Mueller said.
While the responsibility for redeveloping the Sears site doesn't fall on the village board or any individual trustee, the accountability for finding people with the long-term vision to get the process moving does, Mueller said.
"We can't keep waiting," he said.