Condos developer sent back to drawing board

ALGONQUIN – After heated debate, the Village Board on Tuesday disapproved of a developer’s short-term plan to turn the unfinished Riverside Plaza development into smaller, rental apartments.

The board took no formal action but indicated, 5-2, that developer John Breugelmans’ plan for 69 rental units instead of 54 owner-occupied condominiums does not satisfy the board’s vision of attracting affluent property owners to downtown Algonquin.

The board instructed Breugelmans, of Lakeland Asset Management, to continue meeting with village officials to create fewer and more spacious rental units that could be transformed into condos when the real estate market improves.

“The whole intent of bringing a luxury condo development into our downtown was to bring people with disposable income to our businesses,” Village President John Schmitt said.

Schmitt, like other trustees, argued that 69 rental units are too many to try to convert later into luxury condos. Trustees John Spella, Jerry Glogowski, Robert Smith and Debby Sosine concurred.

Breugelmans vehemently argued for 69 units and presented two surveys that indicated the project would not be profitable for investors if it included fewer than that.

He spoke at length about how the economy has dried up the market for high-end, luxury condos, and repeatedly told trustees he is committed to converting the units to condos when the real estate market fully recovers.

“We have written this down. We have committed to that,” Breugelmans said. “It’s purely a temporary solution to get financing for this project. If we go to 60 or 64, I can’t get financing, and it will sit empty for the next three, four or five years. It’s a temporary solution, not a permanent solution.”

In May, Breugelmans proposed reconfiguring the building at Route 31 and Algonquin Road because, he said, that despite $3 million cash on hand, he couldn’t secure a $8.5 million loan to build out the condos.

After the meeting, Breugelmans said he is open to meeting further with village officials, but expressed doubt he could get investors to agree to a project with fewer than 69 rental units.

He said the luxury apartments would be 750 to 1,430 square feet each and rent for $1,100 to $1,800 a month. Last month, he laid out plans before the village planning and zoning commission for the apartments to have luxury features and high-end furnishings, and said he would create more parking. The commission supported his plan for 69 rental units.

Riverside Plaza has been an open wound for the village for at least two years and has stalled progress on the village’s efforts to redevelop downtown. Many residents and business owners supported Breugelmans’ modified proposal, arguing that pricey rental units still would benefit downtown businesses.