Northbrook says Yes to NorthShore 770

<p>Developers of the NorthShore 770 apartment complex added 5 units, and rearranged the interior of the building, leaving balconies and windows of apartments visible on the second floor of the structure's south facade instead of the blank wall of a parking floor. | Northshore 770 graphic</p>

Developers of the NorthShore 770 apartment complex added 5 units, and rearranged the interior of the building, leaving balconies and windows of apartments visible on the second floor of the structure's south facade instead of the blank wall of a parking floor. | Northshore 770 graphic

NORTHBROOK — Northbrook’s Village Board, by a unanimous vote, tentatively approved the 16-acre NorthShore 770 development on the northwest corner of Dundee Road and Skokie Boulevard at its Dec. 10 meeting.

If the project makes it though a formal final vote in January, as expected, the combo of multi-family specialist Morningside Group and shopping center builder Crossroads Development Partners, will be on its way to building a 347-unit apartment building on the northerly 3.8-acre portion, and a 71,320-square-foot Mariano’s grocery and four out-lot retail buildings on the rest. They plan to break ground in May.

The developers actually added five units beyond the number that was recommended 7-2 by the village’s plan commission Nov. 19. Those five are tucked into the second floor, and provide more architectural interest, with windows and balconies, than the largely blank wall of about a story’s height on the south facade. The wall had hidden part of the parking garage, before the floor was rearranged.

The change also gives, of course, about 2 percent more apartments to rent.

The developers have planned improvements to the nearby intersection, consisting mainly of longer queuing in turn lanes. There could be more, according to David Schoon, village economic development director. He said Illinois Department of Transportation engineers have indicated that their attitude against reducing required widths of turn lanes at the intersection has softened, so double-left turn lanes might be added.

Either way, the developers sought last spring to use $4.9 million in tax increment financing to pay for at least some of the improvements, instead of their own cash. The money would come from the higher taxes received from the property once the project is in place. A Village Board committee will soon meet to discuss the possibilities of letting the tax money be used this way.

The 770 project has always been the less-controversial sister to the Walmart proposed for 1000 Skokie Boulevard, a short distance to the south. That project was withdrawn after a 9-0 negative recommendation in October.

As it was, two neighborhood activists testified at the Dec. 10 Village Board session in opposite tones. Susan Jacobs congratulated the 770 developers on meeting with neighbors and listening to their concerns, and said she and most people she knew were “generally in favor of the project.”

She asked the board to keep in mind, as the project progressed, that any traffic clot on eastbound Dundee would lead to drivers cutting through to the southeast on Midway Road.

Conversely, Susan Nelson said she had collected 300 signatures on a no-build, no-TIF petition over the previous weekend, and maintained that Mariano’s parent company Roundy’s was excessively over-borrowed, and in danger of failing and leaving Northbrook with an empty store.

Northbrook Trustee James Karagianis said he had read about Roundy’s borrowing, and didn’t think it was as perilous as Nelson did.

“And even if Roundy’s does close, there will be someone else” in the store, he said.

Most of the heavy lifting on the project had been done in five plan commission meetings, so there wasn’t much left to debate Dec. 10.

The developers planned 1.75 parking spaces per unit – as opposed to the village’s unusually high requirement of 3 for the O-4 mixed-use zoning district – which works out to about 13 fewer than the plan commission wanted. Crossroads’ Michael Nortman said from his experience, the building would never rent all the spaces it had, but Karagianis suggested that 13 outdoor spaces be set aside, in case.

He didn’t get a majority to agree with him, but the developers seemed open to trying to do it, anyway.

The developers announced that the retailers joining Mariano’s would be Panera, PNC Bank, Verizon, Chipotle and Krisers, an organic pet food store. Also on the property would be Zengeler’s Cleaners’ retail store and plant. That firm tentatively sold the developers its current store building and parking lot to bring its south property line to Dundee Road.

The plan commission had debated recommending the addition of an affordable housing component to the project, and in the final analysis, voted it down, though the village’s comprehensive plan smiles on adding a small number of units that would be affordable to local government workers.

The Village Board members never mentioned lower-priced housing Dec. 10.

“I think it is an issue the community is not even asking us to look at,” Village President Sandy Frum said later. “I have not received a single call about it.”

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