Mount Prospect's Maple Street Lofts development cleared a major hurdle Thursday when the village's planning and zoning commission, by a 5-2 vote, recommended the plan, despite objections raised by concerned neighbors, including building height, traffic and school impact.
The matter now moves to the village board for approval April 3.
Revising plans that originally included an eight-story building, the developer, Nicholas and Associates, offered a plan that includes a six-story, mixed-use building with 192 apartments and more than 14,000 square feet of retail space, and a seven-story building with 65 apartments and 56 row homes. The project would be in the 300 block of South Maple Street, the 200 block of East Prospect Avenue and the 200 block of East Lincoln Street. The same developer is building the 20 West apartments on the other side of the railroad tracks.
The project involves $110 million in private investment and use of around $11 million in tax increment financing funds, including $6 million for a new parking deck. It would be located on the former site of wood product manufacturer Parenti and Raffaelli Ltd., which relocated to the Kensington Business Center with the assistance of $3 million in TIF funds.
TIF funds are property tax revenue generated by new development that is diverted from other governments, such as schools, to help pay for expenses related to the new development.
During the 4½ hour meeting, attended by around 100 people, commissioners were split between those seeing the need for greater density in the downtown to benefit business and those concerned about issues raised by the neighbors.
Among the former was Augie Filippone, who is also running for a spot on the Mount Prospect Village Board in April.
"For me, this project needs to go forward," he said. "We need to look at what we're doing. Are we committed to Mount Prospect's future?"
He also stood up for Nicholas and Associates, a Mount Prospect firm, after hearing the public's comments.
"I haven't seen anyone else step up. They're the only ones that have come up to take the risk. And if we're treating a hometown business like this, that has put so much into our community, I can only imagine what outside developers are thinking," he said.
Members of a residents group, Citizens for Responsible Growth in Mount Prospect, spoke against the proposal.
"All the streets around that development, all the way down to Lincoln, those are residential streets," Stan Kaniecki said. "What's happening here is an expansion of the core business central area of Mount Prospect north of the tracks to what arguably is a residential area. You're bringing high density (and) two high buildings into a residential area that can't handle the traffic."
Their arguments resonated with two of the commission members, Sharon Otteman and William Beattie, who cast no votes.
Otteman praised the project but said, "I don't think that all of the research has been done with traffic, and I'm very concerned about the numbers for the schools."
Beattie asked, "Does anybody know what could Lions Park (School) handle before we get back into the too many students and they are building the temporary classrooms in the parking lot again?"
When asked if whittling down the height would be a breaking point, Christopher Coleman of the Wingspan Development Group, a member of the development team, replied in the affirmative.
"That's the difference between green light and red light," he said. "I know other developers who have looked at this site. They like the site. They could not make the economics work. Could not make the deal work."
Public comment was not exclusively against the project.
"We have not been able to house people who want luxury apartments," said Dawn Fletcher Collins, executive director of the Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce. "Our business community is struggling. They need this development."
Chris Coleman, VP of Development at Wingspan, periodically shares his thoughts and observations on property development news.