- Oct 23, 2015
A recent hearing held by the Plan Commission on a proposed 76 townhome project on the 1100 and 1200 blocks of Shermer Road has generated interest in the potential impact the project could have on the revitalization of Northbrook’s downtown.
The units would be constructed on 5.34 acres on 11 assembled properties located along the south side of Shermer, between Angle Avenue and Church Street. Four different floor plans are proposed, ranging in size between 2200 and 2600 square feet, and in height from two to three 1/2 stories, all with three bedrooms and two car garages. There would be two vehicle access points along Shermer Road leading into the development that would feature a network of pedestrian sidewalks.
Developer Keith Jacobs, The Jacobs Homes, commented at the hearing that when he saw the property, he immediately envisioned its potential for bringing people into the downtown. His firm explained that the plan had changed from a smaller original design, with the purchase of additional property in order to increase the number of units in the project, as suggested by Village Trustees at the preliminary hearing. He also commented that the Village Hall building inspired the designs with the brick and stone exteriors. Architect Steve Rezabek, a 24 year resident of Northbrook, from Pappageorge Haymes, which designed the project, explained that the higher density is fully intended to support the nearby businesses. “This has a special impact on the viability of the downtown in the day and age of Amazon and what it’s done to downtown business areas,” he said.
Nearby residents on Chapel Court voiced concern at the hearing that the street behind the four story structures was an unattractive, insufficient buffer and that the setbacks were too close, with taller buildings right up against their backyards. Comments included: “you are building a city behind us,” and “this is overreacting to fixing the downtown.” Others expressed concerns about stormwater retention, the loss of trees, insufficient landscaping and headlights that would shine into the back of their homes.
Plan Commissioner Steven Elisco commented that while ideally there would be a commercial element to the project, it was unrealistic expectation, and that the parcels were appropriate for a townhome development. His concerns were the lack of open space, observing that it appeared to be a “sea of building and pavements,” and suggested the developer go back to the drawing board and make the buffer more appealing, and be more sensitive to how the buildings are arranged. He especially drew issue with the 11 – 12 steps at the entrance to the units which he warned were impractical in a cold climate with ice and snow, and that once salted, the concrete would quickly deteriorate and be unsightly, similar to what he witnessed at the townhomes in The Glen. He also said the project is “woefully underlandscaped” and suggested something more traditional along the lines of an English garden.
Commissioner Schimmel commented “This is exactly what we need for the downtown,” but also suggested an increase in on-street parking. Echoing some of the concerns of fellow commissioners about open space, the alley behind the project, guest parking, issues with Fire Department access, and configuration of the units, Plan Commission Chair Marcia Franklin commented, “I’d love to see something like this in Northbrook and I’d love to see you guys build it.”
Developers anticipate the project would appeal to empty nesters (units with first floor master bedrooms and the option of elevators) and families with grade school children.
Jacobs commented that he has recently resolved the issues with the Fire Department and is meeting with neighbors to address their concerns, and he also intends to address landscaping improvements. He noted that the plans are evolving and changing on a daily basis. “We’re very excited about this project,” he commented. “We fully intend to make this development something everyone will be proud of.”