What do you do when your suburban village has quality single-family housing but lacks a bustling, walkable hub that young professionals and empty-nesters alike will desire? If you’re part of the leadership for the village of Wheeling, located 30 miles from Chicago and with a population of 40,000, you change the zoning laws. Then, you purchase acreage that includes a furniture store and build a new town center that’s close to existing public transportation for a transit-oriented development.
“We had absolutely no downtown, and residents had to go to nearby towns or along the I-294 Milwaukee–Dundee corridor near suburban offices and shopping,” says village president Dean Argiris.
The Right Mix
To attract the desired demographics, town leaders knew they needed a critical mass of apartments and varied retail, which would also provide an increased tax base. The village worked with the Illinois Department of Transportation to decrease congestion along Dundee Road by adding right and center turn lanes, and it designated a new tax-increment finance district to generate funds for remediation, infrastructure improvements, and roadways, says Argiris.
Two years ago, REVA Development Partners, based in Chicago and with experience in both single-family and multifamily housing, bought 20 acres nearby to develop Northgate Crossing, named for its Northgate Parkway address. The goal was to construct 300 units: 288 rental apartments and a clubhouse in the first phase, followed by 12 rental townhomes.
Filling a Void
The developer worked with The Lakota Group in Chicago on the site plan and landscaping to keep as much green space as possible for people and pets, says REVA principal Matt Nix, who set up his boutique company with partner Warren James four years ago.
“We saw a void in the suburban market for medium-density apartments that could occupy a large suburban tract that had been zoned for office buildings, but which now was available as the office market moved to downtown Chicago,” Nix says. The area hadn’t seen new apartment construction since the last building wave in the late 1990s/early 2000s. After that time, apartments fell from favor as condominiums became the preferred housing style until the 2008 crash. Once the economy recovered, the partners knew that new apartments with the latest amenities would attract attention.
In the process, Lakota principal Daniel Grove recognized several challenges: screening buildings from train tracks and industrial buildings; planning for adequate, intimately scaled people spaces; and planting low-maintenance landscaping.
A New Hybrid
With its housing knowledge, REVA developed an appealing hybrid: nine low-rise, three-story buildings with one and two bedrooms—what Nix terms an update on the “mid-garden" concept with elevators, and three-story townhomes with garages. The partners tested the concept in developments in other Chicago suburbs. All share a mix of maintenance-free siding and masonry with gables, inspired by the East Coast Shingle Style, says Jeff Mulcrone, director of design at Des Moines–based BSB Design, the project’s architect.
Interior public spaces were designed with a transitional aesthetic with a hint of contemporary in an earthy palette with gold and copper accents, a double-sided stone fireplace, and cathedral ceilings with wagon wheel fixtures, says Loren Stanton, president, Stanton Interior Concepts, in Oak Park, Ill., and West Hollywood, Calif.
Sustainable, Still Posh
The team paid attention to making the apartments and townhomes feel like custom homes with glass expanses, good storage, and sound-attenuating materials. One-bedrooms average 700 square feet and rent for $1,400 a month, while the largest two-bedrooms run 1,250 square feet and rent for $2,000 a month. The three-bedroom townhomes will average 2,000 square feet and rent for $2,800 to $3,000. The 8,000-square-foot clubhouse features popular interior and exterior amenities, including a swimming pool, bocce ball court, three-acre pond stocked with fish, and walking and jogging trail, which ties into an 80-acre municipal park.
Throughout the project, Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and LEED Silver certification efforts guided the team’s choices. By having a long-term affiliated relationship with Chicago-based Kinzie Builders, REVA has kept prices competitive and its timetable on track.
Northgate Crossing’s first phase will be finished by year’s end; the townhomes, by spring 2017. To date, 60 of 96 completed units have been leased.
Nix considers the village’s vision transformational. “The area is unrecognizable [now] for people familiar with it,” he says.