Revised downtown Arlington Heights apartment plan near homes earns approvals

Once thought to be a bad fit next to a residential neighborhood, a proposed six-story apartment building on the edge of downtown Arlington Heights sailed through village board approvals this week after the developer revised the project to lessen its impact.

Still, some neighbors said the changes aren't enough, and the board agreed to consider a "red flag" ordinance that would put other developers on notice of potential zoning changes in the immediate area.

Compasspoint Development's $66 million redevelopment would replace two old 3-story office buildings with a 135-unit apartment building and ground-floor restaurant at 116-120 W. Eastman St.

After six of the nine board members said Nov. 6 they couldn't approve the project as is, the developer made changes to the plan:

• The northwest corner of the fifth floor was reduced from five stories to four by removing three apartments. That corner of the building faces a few single-family homes on St. James Street. Now the distances from that portion of the building to the property line are 10 feet on the ground floor, 20 feet on floors 2-4, and 50 feet on floors 5-6.

• Two apartments will replace a second-floor fitness room. But overall, the total number of units in the building was reduced from 136 to 135.

• To alleviate noise concerns, a second-floor pool deck will have a decorative cabana fence buffer and landscaping west along Highland Avenue.

Earlier revisions were prompted by the advisory plan commission's rejection of the first proposal in May. That proposal called for a seven-story, 150-unit building that had less brick and more visible parking from the street.

Some residents at Monday night's village board meeting said the project is still too tall and too dense for the neighborhood, which successfully petitioned the board in July to downzone five century-old homes in an effort to prevent future high-density redevelopment there.

But across the street, where Compasspoint's property is in the B-5 downtown business zoning district, buildings can be at least eight stories, and as high as 140 feet with "density bonuses" for having features like parking garages and staggered setbacks.

Trustee Jim Tinaglia said the developer's changes are sensitive to the neighbors.

"I know that this could be, as of right, quite a bit taller, quite a bit larger, than what these folks are proposing," Tinaglia said. "It could be someone who came in and asked for 140 feet and tried to find a way to park it and try to make it fit with a shoehorn. There's an old phrase - what you can do and what you can't do, versus what you should do and shouldn't do - and I think we're leaning much more toward should and shouldn't in this case than can and can't."

Trustee Robin LaBedz, who lives nearby on Fremont Street, proposed village staff draft an ordinance calling for a public hearing to consider possible zoning, rezoning, overlay zoning and/or comprehensive plan changes for the commercial properties on either side of the Eastman apartments, as well as businesses in and around the old Elms Shopping Center to the west. It's a similar process to when the village board set up an overlay zoning district for the Arlington Park property in 2021.

Tinaglia was the only trustee to vote against LaBedz's motion, saying it's too narrow, and should more broadly consider all transitional areas between residential neighborhoods and the village's downtown.

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A decorative cabana fence and trees were added to the second-floor pool deck of a proposed apartment building in Arlington Heights to alleviate noise concerns. Courtesy of Village of Arlington Heights
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