Algonquin is considering plans to transform 112 acres of vacant land into a walkable, mixed-use campus with various types of residences, retail space and recreational amenities.
The "Algonquin Colosseum" project is proposed for the northeast corner of Randall Road and Longmeadow Parkway, an area where village officials say development is inevitable. Developer and 23-year resident Troy Mertz says his goal is to offer housing and entertainment options in a market-driven setting that will "make the village proud."
Algonquin ColosseumAn initial proposal for the "Algonquin Colosseum" development includes a mix of uses on a roughly 112-acre property at the northeast corner of Randall Road and Longmeadow Parkway. About 35 acres would have to be annexed into the village, and the site would be rezoned to accommodate the following uses:
• 145,870 square feet of commercial space for retail, restaurant and office uses
• 302 apartments
• 142 rental townhouses
• 58 houses
• A 10,900-square-foot clubhouse
• A six-acre "entertainment hub" with fountains, a band shell, a full-size turf field and pedestrian plazas that will be dedicated to the village for public use
• More than an acre dedicated to the adjacent Willoughby Farms Park
Source: Village of Algonquin
Some community members see the plan as a much-needed attraction for young adults, giving them more restaurants to frequent, events to attend and apartments to rent in their hometown. For youth athletics coaches and players, it provides an opportunity to showcase their programs in a visually prominent location.
But several residents and trustees worry the influx of rooftops and abundance of activity could disturb the quality of life in adjacent neighborhoods and the vitality of an existing watershed.
"The project itself, as a whole, as a concept, is a good idea for the village," Trustee Debby Sosine said. "But there are things we need to correct."
A proposal presented to Algonquin's committee of the whole last week called for building 145,870 square feet of commercial space, 302 luxury apartments, 142 rental townhouses and 58 houses. A 6-acre "entertainment hub" with a turf field, a band shell and pedestrian plazas would be dedicated to the village for public use, according to documents.
The project would require about 35 acres to be annexed into the village and the entire L-shaped site to be rezoned. Local roads within the development would connect to Stonegate Drive to the north, and access points would be created along Randall Road and Longmeadow Parkway.
The proposed development is sprinkled with open space and "fulfills several solid planning principles for good land use," Community Development Director Russ Farnum said.
"It is an important addition to the community, and one that we've wanted for quite some time."
Algonquin lacks housing options for recent college graduates and young families who can't afford to buy a $400,000 home, Village President John Schmitt said. Mertz's plan would aim to fill that gap.
"For us to be able to bring our young (adults) back to the community so they can start their families here and grow in our community, we have to have some apartments," he said. "Overall, I think it's a great project."
However, most trustees said they believe the residential component is too dense, particularly given its location between single-family subdivisions and Westfield Community School.
"The idea of this affordable living for kids that come home from college and have something to do -- I think that's a joker in the deck, in all honesty," Trustee John Spella said.
"I'm not against apartments, but I'm not for apartments in the middle of a neighborhood like that."
Trustee Jerry Glogowski suggested reconfiguring the site to move some multifamily residential buildings away from the existing houses and closer to the main roads.
Trustee Laura Brehmer expressed concerns about the development's impact on the Woods Creek watershed and the property's groundwater supply. She said she would not approve any project that does not include a conservation plan addressing those topics.
Several community members said they fear the project will increase traffic on local roads, overcrowd schools and cause nearby property values to drop.
"I'm not opposed to the area being developed. I don't want to sit here and pretend that I'm naive and think it'll stay a farm field forever," resident Patrick Giacomiro said. "I just think the project is misplaced."
Those in favor of the development, however, said they see it as an opportunity for growth. The public spaces could be used for sporting events, concerts, farmers markets, concerts and other social gatherings, officials said, all of which would generate foot traffic for the restaurants and shops within the entertainment area.
"We want to see this place keep growing. We want this to be a destination town," resident Leon Rebodos said, encouraging village officials to move the project forward and work through the inevitable "transitional pains."
Mertz and his team now are expected to return to the drawing board, incorporate community and board feedback, and bring back a revised plan at a later date.
"There are balances that need to come into any land plan," Mertz said.
"It's important to me and to my family to do what's right for the community. I hear you loud and clear."