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Plan could transform downtown Fox River Grove

Plan for housing, retail could transform village

Published: Sunday, June 29, 2014 12:08 a.m. CST

FOX RIVER GROVE – Over the next few months, Fox River Grove officials will be considering a $250 million development that could potentially transform the village's downtown.

Gart Partners wants to bring in a mixed-use development in three to four phases that would include one- and two-bedroom apartments, office space, retail and a marina.

The developer will have to present the plans to the Planning and Economic Development Commission and the Zoning Board and Appeals before going in front of the Village Board for ultimate approval.

The 20-acre development includes plans for up to 500 apartments in buildings with five to five-and-a-half stories.

Village President Bob Nunamaker said this high-density project is what's needed for the village, which is essentially landlocked and has no room to expand its borders.

"We're not going to level a cornfield and build a bunch of houses," Nunamaker said. "Secondly, we have one of the highest tax rates in the county. The only way to get more people supporting the needs of a community is to go up."

Developers say this will be a transit-oriented development, which is meant to boost public transit ridership and reduce automobile congestion, "providing value for both the public and private sectors, while creating a sense of community and place," according to the Federal Transit Administration.

Jordan Glazov, one of the principals of Gart Partners, said this type of project includes putting the most dense, mixed-use development within half a mile of Metra stations.

"People can take advantage of the opportunity of the public transportation within walking distance so they don't have to get into their cars, reducing automobile traffic, reducing pollution, [which] makes for a better neighborhood," Glazov said.

Nunamaker said this project could re-energize Fox River Grove's downtown.

"We need to do something. Downtown is dying," Nunamaker said. "Downtown died the day they widened Route 14 and took all the parking."

Adding population, potentially 600 to 700 people, could help increase revenue to the tax-capped village.

"The only way we can survive is to have more people paying taxes to contribute to the total cost of running the village," Nunamaker said. "It will be different; we believe it's better because it's transit-oriented. We're not covering McHenry County with houses. We're bringing high-density near a train station, which we think is the proper thing to do. Therefore, we think everyone's property values will go up as the downtown becomes more valuable."

Nunamaker said the village had been approached by other developers, but they didn't bring complete plans.

The village decided to work with Gart Partners because of its experience with other developments, such as in Arlington Heights. Nunamaker said discussions with Gart took place for about 18 months.

"They came in with a complete plan and a complete team of people," Nunamaker said. "They have a unified plan, which took into account the housing, the retail and the parking amenities that will be required."

Glazov said his group decided to approach Fox River Grove officials after he learned of the village's downtown TIF district, making it a possible place to develop.

"Now that the market for financing has improved, we think it's now feasible to do so," Glazov said.

Village trustees earlier this month adopted a memorandum of understanding with Gart Partners that outlines what items the village and the developers will discuss over the next few months to help move the project forward.

The trustees have been working on economic development, with initiatives including facade grants, buying land for downtown parking, and trying to recruit businesses.

"They have tried everything they could think of to make this happen, and nothing is happening," Nunamaker said. "I think there is realization of all parties, it has to be a large ... well thought-out plan. These people have it."

OUTBOX: Possible rents

If the proposed $250 million mixed-use development does go through, the apartments are expected to be rented for an average of $1,400 a month, said Gart Partners Principal Jordan Glazov.

Glazov said rents would be based on $1.50 a square foot. He said apartments in Arlington Heights rent for $2.25 a square foot.

"It's not low-income housing, it's not high income housing," Glazov said. "It's mid-income housing. It's appropriate for the location and how far out it is from the city."

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