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Apartments May Be Starting to Hit Home

Consultant reiterates best options for Hahn site.

Tracy Cross and Associates returned to the City Council Monday armed with more information to support what the consultant reported to aldermen last month – that rental apartments are the best idea for developing land at Hahn Street and York Road.

While stressing he was not telling the council what to do, Cross presented numbers that pointed to a need for apartments in the suburbs, and especially in northeast DuPage County.

“You have no competition to the east of you. None,” Cross said.

The site in question, bordered by North Avenue, York Road, Addison and Third streets, was part of the downtown Tax Increment Financing District (TIF 1) that was established in 1986, but economic decline stalled development there.

The city let Morningside Group out of its contract to develop Hahn Street last March. Morningside had planned to build condominiums with first-floor retail. Recently, aldermen offered ideas for the area, including a hotel or entertainment facility.

Cross' first presentation in September concluded that hotel, office, and owner-occupied housing would all be risky moves in the current economy. But aldermen pushed back at these conclusions, and asked Cross to provide more support for his recommendations.

On Monday, Cross made more of a case for apartments, telling the council that many potential renters will look within Elmhurst when they want to purchase their first home, and that the supply of young people wanting apartments is perpetual.

To counter the council's push for more information on the idea of a boutique hotel, Cross said that the competition in the hospitality market in the area is “extremely intense,” with 6,200 rooms available in eastern DuPage County and 5,300 rooms in Rosemont alone.

Most of those rooms, he said, were closer to the kinds of facilities, such as offices, convention centers and O'Hare Airport, that bring people to hotels.

He added that Elmhurst College only draws five percent of its 2,800 enrollees from outside the Chicago area. Cross stressed that he was just charged with evaluating the Hahn Street area, and noted that a hotel could work at another location in Elmhurst.

As for the residential market, while the single-family home market is down 25 percent from its high in 2007, and the condominium market is down 45 percent, the rental scene is tight, with near-full occupancy in many buildings.

Because the council made it clear they wanted options, Cross outlined potential residential uses for the site, including twenty single-family homes priced at $595,000 to $775,000, 36 rowhomes priced at $300,000 to $350,000, or 90 condos at $200,000 to $284,000. The condos, he said, would have to wait four years for the market to recover.

As for apartments, a 200-unit building with rents from $1,300 to $1,850 per month would allow for studios, or a 175-unit building with rents from $1,500 to $1,950 per month would offer one-bedrooms as the smallest space. Both types of developments would attract singles or childless couples with an income of at least $50,000 per year.

Third Ward Alderman Michael Bram asked if the city would have to provide incentives to apartment developers. Cross said it was likely, especially if the city wanted to put stipulations on the site, such as increased parking requirements. He referred to a recently approved apartment development in Orland Park in which the village was heavily involved in the financing. Cross provided consulting services to the village of Orland Park.

Alderman Scott Levin noted that in considering options for the site, it wasn't what the council wanted, but rather “what developers will do and what a bank will finance.”

John John October 03, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Always interesting to live near a 1300 sq ft rental house that's up to 4 generations and 9-10 people. Kids moved in right before school year. 6 cars typical, often in yard. Brand new apartments and Hawthorne could be tempting with similar space. Match it up with the chicken ordinance and chickens can run the streets of Elmhurst.
PJC October 03, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Interesting point, but I would not like to see Elmhurst follow in the footsteps of Villa Park and Oak Park.
Elm Forest October 03, 2012 at 04:47 AM
By what authority can anyone dictate who rents an apartment in this talked about complex? Apartments are apartments. You can dream that the right crowd would rent 100% of this dream deal but that isn't how it works. Committing to building apartments in this area is a bad choice and should eventually turn sour. You also can dream that the single adult crowd will outnumber the married crowd in ten years but it's just someone's spin on numbers. No one knows. Elmhurst is a sought after community and will probably stay that way. We moved here after researching many communities 20 years ago. Elmhurst has only gotten better in my estimation. Apartments aren't needed here as some want to think unless you want to attract a transient population.
Gigi October 03, 2012 at 05:31 PM
I agree, 'no joke'. There is no faster way to ultimately downgrade a solid community such as Elmhurst than to sell them the 'need' for rental apartments. Before you know it, those same sources will be selling us on the need to accommodate a percentage of low-income tenants and ... voila!, we will have become Oak Park - all good intentions and dwindling property values. Things may have changed within the last few years, but during my term in real estate, rentals were tough to move. Why throw away $1500 in rent with no equity? No young single person with above average means is going to be interested in tucking themselves away in a staid suburb such as Elmhurst, no matter how attractive the so-called night life is.
Melissa D October 16, 2012 at 04:05 PM
I live in in the older part of Elmhurst, north of North Ave and east of York Rd. I hate to admit it, John John is right. A house across the street was bought by a flipper; he rehabbed it & couldn't find buyers. He then rented it to low-income, prob Sec. 8. Usually there were 3-4 families there at a time, all with children. There were 5 and 6 vehicles which they never parked in their driveway, but always in front of our houses (not their own). They also ran an auto repair business out of the garage! (Against the city ordinance to operate without a license, but despite multiple complaints the city ignored us.) Owner finally sold for peanuts because they TRASHED the house and it was torn down two weeks ago and the new McMansion is halfway built. We have other rentals up and down the surrounding streets. Some are good people who take care of things. Many are not. Around the corner is a rental house with 6 cars jammed into the driveway and yard and people coming and going constantly. Do we really need apartments when all these houses that aren't selling are being turned into rentals? Granted, the houses are being rented by Sec. 8 people who want to get their kids into Elmhurst schools or who were displaced from Bensenville. But there is NO guarantee that the dreamy demographic of single upscale professionals is going to rent the overpriced apartments being discussed. People without kids don't need the school system here, so WHAT is going to attract them to Elmhurst?

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