Buffalo Grove considers grand downtown redesign
Chuck Malk, president of CRM Properties Group, Ltd., lays out his plans for a built-from-scratch downtown that would involve retail, office space, condominiums, government buildings and cutting the Buffalo Grove Golf Club down to nine holes. | Ronnie Wach
Updated: September 10, 2012 1:04PM
In five to eight years, Buffalo Grove could have an entirely new Village Hall, police headquarters and public works building, plus a sawed-in-half Buffalo Grove Golf Course — and a true downtown.
During an hour-and-a-half-long presentation Monday night at the Village Board meeting, a Deerfield developer laid out his preliminary vision for how, if Buffalo Grove authorities were to sell him their land and approve his designs, he would build the community something it has never had. Chuck Malk, president of CRM Properties Group, Ltd., laid out for the trustees an outline that would completely raze and redevelop the village’s current campus, on the northwest corner of Lake Cook and Buffalo Grove roads:
three condominium towers, two eight stories tall and one 10 stories
323,000 square feet of retail
55,000 square feet of restaurants, including outdoor dining on 20-foot-wide sidewalks
a 45,000-square foot movie theater
66,000 square feet of office space
4,500 parking spots, including a parking structure
an entirely new Village Hall, police station and public works facility
a three-acre, open green space in the development’s center
a large pond-like water feature with fountains shooting plumes upward on one edge
between 65 and 69 acres of total development — which would include nine holes of the golf course, turning it into a nine-hole attraction.
The trustees showered Malk with praise of an intensity rarely heard in Village Hall.
“I started to drool,” board member Jeff Berman said of his first glimpses at CRM’s vision. “The concept is fabulous.”
“This is a game-changer,” said Village President Jeff Braiman. “This is going to be our downtown, and hopefully, this is going to be what our city has desired for a long time.”
None of Malk’s plans are in motion, and none will be for probably two years; the only action the Village Board took Monday was to direct village manager Dane Bragg to create a special committee, which will include two trustees and two members of the plan commission, to guide the idea’s development. Village Hall owns all of the land CRM would need to build on, and while that sale can be negotiated privately, that process alone would take months to complete.
If built as laid out Monday, the new downtown would leave St. Mary Church untouched. It would also dwarf Town Center, the decades-old strip mall currently anchored by Eskape Entertainment Center that was supposed to fill the role of a downtown, but never did.
Toward the end of the session, Braiman acknowledged his group’s giddiness with Malk’s idea, but warned him that harder examinations would be coming.
“Forget all that,” Braiman said. “Now we’re going to look at the details.”
The foremost could be Malk’s history. He told the board that his group was responsible for the rebuilding of Deerfield’s downtown and the transformation of the industrial area at North and Clybourn avenues in Chicago into a retail hub, credentials that Berman said he had verified.
“The one thing I heard uniformly is that you’re a man of your word and you deliver what you promise,” he told Malk.
Malk said Buffalo Grove’s population had obvious potential, despite the underperformance of the nearby Town Center.
“We have studied the demographics, we think you have something special here,” he said. “Because it’s never been done properly, it’s never worked out.”
He noted, though, that those demographics bear one striking difference from Deerfield and Chicago: no real public transportation. Buffalo Grove’s Metra stop is blocks to the north, out of walking distance, and Malk said his project would be built around walking.
He also said that, in the age of internet shopping, what would make his vision a success is the social connections and entertainment value he will weave into it.
“You won’t be a shopping center, you will be a downtown,” he said. “You’ll feel part of the social membrane of Buffalo Grove.”
Of course, the vision would come at the cost of one entertainment option: 18 holes of golf. The board spoke briefly about the need to ascertain if a nine-hole course would be profitable, what CRM would do with the rest of the course if nine holes prove to be useless — and how the development would affect the neighbors whose property values depend on views of a fairway.
“It will be a sacrifice, especially to some 20 to 25 residents who have a beautiful view of the golf course,” Malk said.
In the face of what Village Hall might gain if the development pans out as hoped, though, those views could be changing in a few years. Bragg laid out the early estimates of financial impact: $100 million in new sales annually for a village that sees about $450 million in sales per year, meaning an extra $2 million annually in sales-tax revenue, plus increases in nearby properties’ estimated assessed valuations.
Still, board member Jeff Berman said cutting the course in half may be a tough sell.
“If this comes to fruition, this will be a quantum leap for this community,” he said. “We have some soul-searching that we have to do.”
Negotiations will likely take years: Possibly 12 months for the invention of a new zone classification, as current village codes have nothing that covers a development of this scale, and 18 months for studying the stormwater. Groundbreaking may be in the summer of 2014, with completion of the last phase five to eight years after.
Board member Mike Terson said the proposal had obvious benefits.
“This is something that will bring people together, to the nth degree ... I just would like everybody to consider the possibility of change.”