Redeveloping a Village Square
DDC Journal | November 19, 2015
In 2012, the Village of Arlington Heights Board of Trustees approved the Arlington Downs mixed-use development, a $250 million project that includes a 161-room hotel, 214 luxury rental apartments, an expanded water park and two new residential rental towers with a total of 443 luxury apartments.
In addition, the development includes retail and entertainment space. Public officials hope the expansion will provide a boost to surrounding businesses and attendance at local events, as well as better serve the village’s needs.
“It was a case study in reinventing distressed properties,” says Charles Witherington-Perkins, Director of Planning and Community Development for the Village of Arlington Heights. “It was the site of the former Sheraton CoCo Key Water Resort and hotel development that was shuttered at the depth of the recent recession. The hotel closed in late December 2009, and this was a key site for the municipality. We embarked on a strategy to find investor groups and developers to bring it back on the marketplace and make it an economically viable property again, contributing to the community.”
A NEW APPROACH
The location of the property makes the development particularly important to the village. Mixed-use development is what the site is best suited for, but public officials wanted to take a fresh approach.
“It’s important because it’s a large piece of property in a very visible location immediately West of Arlington Park Racetrack,”‘ Witherington-Perkins says. “The site was previously significant from an economic engine perspective, generating not just significant property taxes, but also hotel, motel and sales tax revenue for the community. This is a major gateway into the community, so the last thing we wanted to see was a sheltered hotel for any length of time. We wanted to see the site redeveloped. It has a lot of potential.”
The Village of Arlington Heights was intentional as it designed the redevelopment. The board and village officials wanted to provide residents with something new and exciting, yet useful and welcoming for visitors to the area.
“One of the things that we are most excited about is the holistic approach of the development.” Witherington-Perkins says. “It’s a mixed-use development about a quarter-mile away from the Arlington Park Train Station, so it does have the ability for some public transportation for those who want to commute into (Chicago) or some of our western neighbors.”
According to Witherington-Perkins, the mixed-use development provides something for nearly everyone to enjoy.
“It’s not just a residential development, it’s not just a typical retail development and it’s not just a typical hotel development,” he says. “It has been put together in a sort-of theme, with both residential and retail centered around a common gathering place, almost like your old-fashioned village green. There’s the ability for people together and enjoy the setting. It’s certainly a unique approach to redevelopment in the suburbs.”
SUCCESS IN PARTNERSHIPS
Faced with a struggling economy and a failing property, the village has overcome some formidable obstacles throughout the redevelopment effort. The municipal government needed to find people who were committed to a long-term solution.
“The first challenge was finding an investor group interested in acquiring the property and developing a plan that met the goals and desires of the community. That was particularly challenging during the recession,” Witherington-Perkins says. ‘”Initially, when the former hotel closed, we identified about 30 different investor groups that were buying up distressed property, and we developed a marketing flier, reached out to them and had numerous meetings with them.”
The village was then interested in finding a developer that would create a strong long-term plan, rather than just a short-term fix. Arlington Downs Residential, a joint venture between Stoneleigh Companies and Ust Adspo JV is developing the residential component.
“A project like this cannot happen without both public and private entities working together with a common goal in mind,” Witherington-Perkins says. ‘”That is really key and has been critical in this development.”‘
Large-scale developments like Arlington Downs often require revising plans along the way, something the village has done at multiple points since approving its master plan in 2012.
“There have been some amendments to (the master plan), and actually we may continue to make changes as we go along. We anticipated that.” Witherington-Perkins says. “(Argent Group) purchased some additional property north of the site that they included, and the market has dictated a few other changes to that.”
At this time, the project is well underway and has clear direction moving forward.
“Phase I is now open and there are 214 very beautiful luxury apartments on the property,” Witherington-Perkins says. “The next phase will be the construction of a 151-room limited service hotel and a 10,000 square-foot expansion of the former water park.”