Due to market uncertainties, the owner of undeveloped land long targeted for a shopping center between Hawthorn Woods and North Barrington will get five more years to get the project moving.
It would be the third extension of final plan approval for the 109-acre Dimucci property at Old McHenry Road and Route 12 in unincorporated Ela Township. A preliminary development plan was approved by the Lake County Board in 2012 but has not advanced.
With another deadline nearing, a county board advisory panel on Wednesday agreed with the request and granted the property's owners a five-year extension.
The 2010 proposal to rezone the property from residential to commercial ignited controversy and objections from residents and neighboring towns, as well as the Barrington Area Council of Governments.
After substantial public debate and input, the county board on Oct. 9, 2012, voted to rezone the property and allow 450,000 square feet of retail development and 200,000 square feet of other uses, such as restaurants or offices.
The approval allows for 53 acres of high-quality, commercial mixed-use development, with the remaining 56 acres preserved as open space for natural resource protection, stormwater detention, utilities, passive recreation, landscape buffering and access improvements.
Approval of the preliminary development plan was effective for five years. The deadline has been extended twice because of challenging economic conditions and the complexity of planning and executing a project of this scale, according to county planners.
With the most recent extension set to expire Oct. 9, property owner RK123 LLC is requesting five more years to cultivate interest and bring the project to market. That work would include negotiating a sale, contracting with a developer, securing tenants, and finalizing architectural and engineering plans, according to information provided to the county.
Robert Dimucci, manager for RK123 LLC, said there is improving but tentative interest in starting new commercial projects in the suburbs. That stance is due to the slow economic recovery and unknowns surrounding the pandemic, Dimucci wrote in a letter to Eric Waggoner, the county's director of planning, building and development.
"The general uncertainty of 'When is this going to end?' has made developers and investors very cautious," Dimucci wrote.
From putting the property on the market to actual construction involves several distinct stages, each with their own timelines, Dimucci added in making the case to extend the deadline to Oct. 9, 2026.
If an extension isn't granted, the project would revert to its status before the initial county board approval, Waggoner informed members of the Lake County Board's public works, planning and transportation committee on Wednesday.
"We'd have to start from scratch," he said.
Waggoner recommended the five-year extension, adding that the project must adhere to an extensive list of best practices and design elements unusual in the county's development history.