They all offer the bells and whistles of upscale urban living: pools, clubhouses, garden courtyards, granite countertops, walk-in closets, terraces, gaming and conference rooms. They all have proven track records and years of experience. All handle their own leasing and management.
It was the finer points that distinguished the developers presenting their plans for Hahn Street to the Elmhurst City Council Tuesday night.
All contenders have now had a chance to lay out their vision for Hahn. Lincoln Property Company, Buckingham Company and Banner Apartments presented on Tuesday, and Morningside Group and Jupiter Realty presented their plans on Monday. With that, the city is finally getting closer to embarking on a brand new downtown development. The project has been languishing for years due to market conditions that caused Morningside to walk away from its contract for Hahn in 2012.
If you watched the transformation of the once-eerie and abandoned Ovaltine factory in Villa Park into the modern Ovaltine Court Apartments about 14 years ago, then you're already familiar with Lincoln Property.
"We created 223 brand new units with an industrial aesthetic to complement the existing structures," Brian Byrne, executive vice president in charge of the Midwest, said of Ovaltine Court. "We're very proud of that."
Lincoln is a huge, national company with a Midwest branch next door in Oak Brook. Its vision for Hahn Street is 216 residential units with an urban, contemporary appeal, 14,000 square feet of retail, and a 20,000-square-foot public plaza along York Road. The plaza would be built over a stormwater storage area.
Lincoln works with PPK Architects, Glen Ellyn. Principal David Kennedy said the apartments would have "major setbacks" off of York, creating private terraces for the units. Parking would be at ground level and one level below.
Sustainable features would be a "tight" thermal building envelope, water management features, recycled materials, green roofs, passive solar features and more.
The target demographic is, "Suburban urbanites who like a walkable neighborhood, prefer to socialize locally, with a high disposable income," said Bruce Webster, regional vice president. "It will attract high-quality renters looking for something new and modern and very urban-feeling."
Lincoln properties manages some mixed-use developments attached to large, well-known retailers, like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. But Byrne, who lives in Elmhurst, said he is more comfortable with 14,000 square feet of retail here, for now.
"I don't want to over-promise and under-perform," he said. "I can be accountable for 14,000.
"We want to create a long-term investment that is institutional grade and will draw financial partners for a long time," he said.
"Art is at the soul" of this 30-year-old development company based in Indianapolis, Senior Vice President Scott Travis said.
The pillars of the company are sustainability, environmental sensitivity and a strong desire to embrace art, he said. Staff envisions a 3,500 square-foot interior courtyard and an additional 6,000 square feet for community use.
"The concept is, it will be a community theater space for performance," Travis said. The crowd at City Hall erupted in applause at the idea. He said the exact use of that space would be determined by the residents of Elmhurst.
Alderman Dannee Polomsky asked Travis if his company had ever managed theater or public space.
"We have the ability, the structure to provide management … but we don't want to get in the business of how this should work. We think the community should tell us," he said.
Similiar to Lincoln's proposal, the Buckingham property would offer 15,000 square feet of retail, but with 8,000 square feet possibly set aside for a full service restaurant.
In addition to 180 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, the property would also offer 17 townhome units along Addison Avenue. Parking would be at grade level plus one level above along Addison, with four levels of living space above that, for a total of six stories.
Banner Apartments might be the most experienced in sustainable design. In fact, partner Doug Farr of Farr Architects wrote the book on Sustainable Urbanism. He literally wrote a book about it.
The company has designed seven LEED Platinum buildings, and focuses much of its attention on conservation. Partner Conservation Design Forum, based in Elmhurst, is focused on innovative solutions that manage rainwater as a resource.
As far as sustainability, "Farr and Conservation Design Forum do not have an off switch when it comes to sustainability," Farr said. "That's all we do. We'll save that discussion for the second round. I look forward to talking to you all day and all night about that, but not tonight."
The team noticed, according to Farr, that residents around Hahn Street don't have a park within easy walking distance. So they created one on Addison.
"The benefit goes well beyond the benefit to the project," Farr said.
He also outlined plans for a "terminated vista," a tower to break up the view toward the rest of downtown, which would make the community more "walkable."
"When you can see your destination, you destination seems closer," he said.
Banner's plan also calls for a public plaza, shorter block sizes and public street or walkway down the middle to connect the plaza area on York to the park on Addison.
"The shaping of a public plaza is part art and part science," Farr said.
Farr referred to the walkway as a Mews, a British term used to describe row houses—literally, stables converted into apartments. Farr said he likes the idea of designating some of the apartments as special live-work units on both sides of the passageway.
Farr said they had no problem staying within the city's four-story height limit. The design (with some variations) shows 16,000 square feet of open space, 12,000 square feet of retail, 98 apartments, six townhomes, 16 live/work units and at-grade parking.
The plans show the "tower" (at four stories) on York with a top floor that could be used for yoga or cooking classes, but would "draw attention from a distance." The whole building is shown set back from the street.
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Either at or before the next Committee of the Whole meeting, on Monday, Sept. 16, aldermen will assign grades to each of the five companies in various categories. The field will by narrowed by the following week.
"It might be two, it might be four," Mayor Steve Morley said.
From there, a firm will be selected.