Village Selects Purchaser for Grainger Site

Village Selects Purchaser for Grainger Site

Northbrook Trustees have approved a $10.5 million agreement to sell the former Grainger property on Shermer Road to developer Lennar Multifamily Communities (LMC). The proposal envisions a mixed-use development with 335 apartments and adjoining retail space, with 1.5 acres donated for the creation of affordable and supportive housing.

Artist’s rendering from LMC shows a restaurant in the foreground with the 335-unit apartment building behind it.

At the May 10 Board meeting, Village President Kathryn Ciesla was enthusiastic about the project. “I anticipate this is going to be a great development, a mix of residential and retail,” she noted. “It’ll expand our downtown and be an attractive gateway to the downtown.”

Purchased by the Village in 2018 for $8 million, the 10.3 acre property at 1657 Shermer Road was considered for a variety of potential uses, including a relocated train station or police station. During the peak of the pandemic, the site hosted vaccine clinics, mask distribution events, and fire department training exercises, as well as temporary furniture storage for local school districts to meet social distancing requirements. The Village began working with commercial real estate broker Cushman & Wakefield in the fall of 2021 to solicit development offers.

In a statement on May 10, Village Attorney Steve Elrod explained that the entire plot would be sold to LMC for $10.5 million, with no public incentives. The final sale will be dependent on various zoning applications that will be subject to public hearings before the Plan Commission and a final decision by Village Trustees. The first step of the application process began with a preliminary review at the Board meeting on May 24.

To address the goals of Northbrook’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance, the proposal includes five affordable units among the 335 luxury apartments as well as the donation of approximately 1.5 acres for the development of 48 affordable housing units. LMC will donate that portion to the non-profit Housing Opportunities Development Corporation, with the stipulation that the property would revert to the Village for the same use if HODC is unable to secure financing for the project. Although the draft proposal described the HODC project as entirely supportive housing for individuals with disabilities, several Trustees at the preliminary review suggested that some of the HODC units should be available to lower-income applicants generally.

The addition of a mixed-use “gateway” development on Shermer Road fits the model of an expanded downtown that Trustees discussed in a January Ad Hoc Downtown Committee meeting. This concept for downtown enhancement would encompass retail and residential developments from Shermer and Waukegan on the north to the proposed new development or Shermer Place on the south. Residential density is seen as a boon to the nearby businesses.

“One of the things we’ve learned from our consultants in order for us to have folks invest in our downtown, we need density,” noted Trustee Johannah Hebl during the preliminary review.  She described the downtown as having “bookends” at the recently-approved Starbucks and the new restaurant envisioned for the LMC project. “It will say, invest in that stretch of land, it’s worth it. …I see that the residents living there will really complement some of the existing businesses.”

Next steps for the project include the development of formal applications for zoning relief before the Plan Commission from the Village, LMC and HODC, as well as review by school districts 27, 28 and 225 and other affected taxing bodies.