A developer is aiming to transform Schaumburg's former Motorola Solutions campus into a self-contained community of offices, homes, stores, restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues whose land area would rival that of the Chicago Loop.
Bob Burk, managing partner of UrbanStreet Group LLC, sees the project as an early part of the second chapter in the story of Chicago's suburbs.
"The suburbs have never really had to evolve before," the Inverness resident said. "They're really not that old."
But Motorola Solutions' relocation of its headquarters to Chicago -- downsizing its Schaumburg presence to a still respectable 1,600 employees -- provided the impetus to adapt what passing motorists had seen as predominantly a big lawn into something much more active.
Schaumburg officials are equally enthusiastic about the opportunity, hiring their own team of consultants to weigh the potential of the site as well as UrbanStreet Group's specific proposal.
But they recognize it as an opportunity that came with an upfront cost.
"It's not a great day when your largest employer tells you they're leaving. I won't sugarcoat it," Schaumburg Community Development Director Julie Fitzgerald said. "But then you plan."
Indeed, with corporate giants such as McDonald's Corp. and United Airlines that sunk roots in the suburbs during the 20th century now pulling them out in the 21st, affected communities are looking for ways to repurpose great swathes of land that was long spoken for. Such ideas as the ones UrbanStreet Group is implementing in Schaumburg are in great demand.
"The concepts are transferable," Burk said. "We're not the first to do this. I wish I were that smart."
Still, the size, location and existing redevelopment of the Schaumburg site makes the potential of the newly dubbed "Veridian" development unique, Burk said.
At 322 acres -- of which UrbanStreet Group owns 225 -- the former campus is only slightly smaller than the defined area of the Loop. And while some corporations acquired more out-of-the-way locations, Motorola Solutions' old headquarters borders the I-90 tollway just minutes west of O'Hare Airport, with easy access via a new interchange at Meacham Road that just opened.
Furthermore, with Zurich North America's new headquarters in the southeast corner of the site and Motorola Solutions having renovated a building it's leasing back from a new owner, there are already about 4,600 potential daytime customers for service businesses interested in locating there, Burk said.
And the existing office space represents only about a third of the potential 3.3 million square feet village consultants see as suitable for the site.
Representatives of Zurich North America and Motorola Solutions said their firms already are looking forward to having some new neighbors.
"We are excited to see the campus evolve to be repurposed by the developer," said Motorola Solutions spokeswoman Natalie Brown. "We also are eager to see the property add value back to the community and expect our employees will welcome any new goods and services."
Dennis Kerrigan, chief legal officer for Zurich North America, said his firm didn't buy its site with expectations of the adjacent land staying empty.
"We decided to build our North American headquarters in Schaumburg as part of our commitment to providing the best possible working environment for our employees and in recognition of the area's impressive potential," he said. "We are pleased that the village and developer of the former Motorola property are making progress toward achieving that potential, and we sincerely appreciate their thoughtful approach thus far."
School districts wary
Though all involved recognize the current plans as a work in progress, the parties that have expressed the most concern are three affected school districts over the potential for 2,700 housing units identified by village consultants in May.
However many units there are, they will be on land where the school districts have not previously had students. Also, the site lies in a tax-increment financing (TIF) district, with new property tax revenue being reinvested in sparking development rather than going to local governments for a 23-year period.
"We have concerns regarding a residential TIF and its potential financial impact on District 15," said Palatine Township Elementary District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson. "The possible addition of several hundred students to our district with no additional tax revenue or school impact fees would put an extreme financial hardship on the district. The progress of the development will be monitored, and District 15 will continue to advocate for the needs of our district and students."
Burk and village officials were quick to express their sensitivity and adaptability to such concerns.
"We're working with the village to come up with the best plan as well as the best unit density," Burk said. "We're all in agreement that we need to work with all involved parties."
Though a formal revision of the village's plans is expected in September, market analyses already are moving them toward a lower housing density than was forecast in May, Schaumburg Village Manager Brian Townsend said.
He added that while the largely multifamily housing types envisioned don't strike him as kid-friendly, some level of age restriction is also being considered as a way of reducing the impact on the school districts.
Though District 15 has the part of the site along Algonquin Road where most of the new housing is planned, Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 has the land closer to the tollway. District 54 officials said they consider the plans at too early a stage to comment.
Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 has jurisdiction over the entire site and has been in contact with Schaumburg about the plans.
"As we understand, the nature of the project is designed to limit the number of students and the potential impact on local school districts," District 211 Superintendent Dan Cates said. "We continue to consult closely with the village on this and other projects."
Selling the project
The long build out anticipated -- approximately a decade -- also gives all parties a chance to communicate and adapt along the way, Burk said.
Everyone in business -- particularly those involved in real estate -- are well aware of the inevitability of economic cycles. But Burk said he doesn't feel a race against the clock to complete the project before the next downturn.
Rather, his aim is to at least get everything significantly under way by that time.
"We're anxious to get the process started," he said. "I need to get it started to show the world what we can do here."
There is already a firm plan for the village to construct a new L-shaped spine road through the site from Algonquin Road to Meacham Road in 2018. Burk hopes building construction closer to Algonquin Road can be started in the meantime.
Though Chicago-based UrbanStreet Group has had projects in other parts of the country, this redevelopment is in Burk's own backyard. He grew up in Palatine, lives in Inverness, and both he and now his children have attended Fremd High School.
Burk said UrbanStreet Group came to recognize this opportunity through relationships he was able to build with the village of Schaumburg and Motorola Solutions over the years.
On this project, UrbanStreet Group is partnering with another Chicago-based firm, Trilogy Investments.