Roadwork approved by Vernon Hills officials will improve access between two large retail centers on either side of busy Milwaukee Avenue.
The work between Hawthorn Mall to the west and Mellody Farm to the east will involve removing two raised medians to allow for direct connections, and to accommodate pedestrians at Ring Drive and a point adjacent to the former Denny's restaurant.
"We think it's a very important improvement," said David Brown, the village's engineer/public works director. "It is logical that people would be able to drive straight across the roadway to get to the other development."
Hawthorn Mall was built in the 1970s north and west of Milwaukee Avenue and Route 60. Mellody Farm, an open-air center anchored by Whole Foods, opened in October 2018.
When Hawthorn was built, the property north and east of the intersection was open and undeveloped. It remained so until Mellody Farm and an adjoining luxury apartment complex were developed.
"There was no need for a west-to-east connection," Brown said.
About $4.4 million was spent to widen and upgrade the Milwaukee/Route 60 intersection as part of the Mellody Farm development.
But when it was built, there were no agreements to provide for a vehicle connection to Hawthorn Mall, according to Brown.
Traffic signal equipment was placed in anticipation of a second phase of roadwork to provide west-to-east access, he said.
As part of development approval from the village, Mellody Farm developer Regency Centers agreed to contribute $300,000 toward work related to that access.
Besides removing the raised medians at the intersections to allow west-to-east travel, the landscaped median on Milwaukee Avenue between Ring Drive and Denny's will be removed and replaced with a narrow barrier curb to divide the north and southbound lanes. That's needed because the Illinois Department of Transportation is requiring that the northbound left-turn lane from Milwaukee Avenue to Ring Drive be extended, Brown said.
Bids were opened Aug. 17. The village board on Tuesday held a special meeting specifically to approve a contract for $309,910 with A Lamp Concrete Contractors of Schaumburg so the work can be done this season.
Along with the roadwork, the village will extend sidewalks to connect paths north of Ring Drive to the south of Denny's, Brown said.
Hawthorn is undergoing a $252 million transformation called "Hawthorn 2.0" to include a new Main Street-type entry flanked by 303 apartments and 55,000 square feet of restaurants and retail space.
A review of the mall's traffic study by IDOT added $175,000 to the project cost, according to Brown. The village will pay that from a special financing fund associated with the Mellody Farm development.
Median, pavement and signal work is expected to be substantially complete by Nov. 1. Ring Drive is closed through Labor Day, Sept. 6.
Site work for Hawthorn's Main Street improvement is nearly done, Brown said, and the buildings are expected to begin taking shape in about six weeks.
The mall on Wednesday announced a "Hawthorn 2.0 Fall Kick-Off" community event on Sept. 18. Visit the "Hawthorn Row" tab at www.shophawthornmall.com/events/.