Vernon Hills officials have given the go-ahead for a detailed review of a proposed luxury senior housing building as a new element in the ongoing $252 million redevelopment of Hawthorn Mall.
But the concept for 162 units in a six-story building north of Hawthorn Row -- the former Sears space -- and east of the AMC Theater is expected to face questions about building height and other considerations.
"From an aesthetic perspective, I'm getting the impression that people aren't necessarily 100% thrilled that it's significantly higher than Hawthorn (Row)," village Trustee Craig Takaoka said during a recent presentation.
The senior housing plan would include 82 independent, 60 assisted and 20 memory-care units. It would feature amenities like plazas accessible to the general public designed to integrate with Hawthorn Row, the centerpiece of the mall redevelopment.
Construction of Hawthorn Row, described as a new Main Street-style entry to the traditional mall at routes 60 and 83, is taking shape. It will include 313 luxury apartments, 83,342 square feet of commercial space, a 12,500-square-foot patio for public entertainment and other activities, and a 570-space parking garage.
Centennial Real Estate is the retail and master plan developer for what is known as Hawthorn 2.0. The senior living facility is being advanced by Integrated Development of Northfield, which has done residential projects throughout the suburbs, including the Sheridan at Green Oaks.
Matt Phillips, president and CEO of Integrated Development II, said the proposed 2.75-acre site was the smallest of the three considered on the mall property.
"One of the things that really attracted us to this opportunity was being part of a master redevelopment of the mall," he said. "Today's seniors, who are more active than ever, really want to be in communities where they can walk to thing and be part of a larger community."
Elements would include a covered courtyard entrance, lower and upper plazas, terraced areas, a "monumental stair" and possibly a water feature to overlook the new mall development.
"We really wanted to be part of that exciting and dynamic new development there," said James Moyer, principal at SAS Architects & Planners of Northbrook. "We want to create an amenity to the mall and have something that was dynamic and kinetic."
Trustee Michael Schenk asked whether there had been other plans for the site.
Jon Meshel, Centennial senior vice president, said a senior living facility wasn't part of the previous site plan but "the market sort of came to us." The area may have been used for a hotel, but "senior housing is definitely warranted from a market standpoint," he said.
Phillips said that despite a number of senior facilities in Vernon Hills, there is a lack of higher-end supply.
Schenk asked whether Centennial is concerned the end result would look too much like a residential instead of commercial area.
The housing would "activate the campus" and there is ample space for open air retail uses, including the former Carson's space, Meshel replied.
"We are continuing to evaluate how we can do that in a way that's complimentary to what's there today and will satisfy market demand," he said.
Next up for the proposal is a detailed staff review, including its height and other questions raised by the village board, followed by a public hearing before the village's advisory planning and zoning commission.